The Prodigal Son

The Prodigal Son—The Day after Coming Home
by Rev. Marcus Pollard

We all know the “Parable of the Prodigal Son.” Last Sunday, when we heard it read again at Mass, there would have been some among us who heard it with a bit of sadness. That sadness would come from the fact that they are the prodigal sons who progigal soncame home, but keep running away at night and getting into trouble.

What am I talking about? I’m talking about habits of sin. They can be incredibly hard to break. Until we break them, we can find ourselves in the discouraging cycle of: repenting (going to confession), proceeding (having some time of peace), struggling (with temptation) and sinning (all over again).

Beside the fact that this cycle is wearying, the temptations for someone in this situation include: giving up on the Catholic faith, giving up on prayer and on God, or giving up on ourselves. So, how do we get out of this cycle? Where do we find hope?

In my experience, permanent conversion requires several steps. By not taking these steps we practically doom ourselves to staying on the treadmill of sin and repentance and sin. If you or someone you know is in this vicious cycle, looking at the following steps can help:

  1. A Goal – we need a concrete, engaging goal of goodness to pursue. It is not enough to say: “I won’t sin.” We need: “I will actively pursue this virtue.”
  1. More Prayer – in the face of a habit of sin, we have to admit our weakness. Only by drawing closer to Jesus and Mary, by letting them help us, by improving our prayer life and gathering strength from the Sacraments, will we be able to stick to the goal we have in mind.
  1. A Plan – we need to consider how we will go through a day (or a week) and pursue our goal, avoid occasions of sin and deal with temptations that arise. Without this plan, our natural tendency will be to go back to our old rut of sin.
  1. A Friend – it is much easier to pursue virtue with others at our side than while on our own. Being alone is not an impossible situation, but it is harder. Jesus said: “Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there with them.”
  1. Help – a person with a habit of sin often has other problems or challenges in his life that make life harder and getting good harder. These other factors might be health concerns, emotional issues, family problems, etc. These factors are like extra bricks in our backpack. Just pursuing virtue is a difficult load to carry. By getting help with these other issues, the path forward can be lightened.

Mary, Refuge of Sinners: Pray for us!