Rembrandt van Rijn, The Return of the Prodigal Son, c.1661-1688. 262cm x 205cm.Heritage Museum, Saint Petersburg


Inspired by the image of Rembrandt’s The Return of the Prodigal Son we will prayerfully reflect on the theme of desolation and consolation that cycle in the story. Although the parable is honest about the darkness of relationships, the warm and healing light of love which draws us upward illuminates our hearts with God’s gift of consolation based on the HOPE of unconditional acceptance.


However familiar the parable of the Prodigal Son may be, there are always new insights into the profound truth of God’s infinite, unconditional love and our potential to love as God loves with compassion. When love feels far from us, we experience the darkness of desolation but when we experience the love of God in prayer or through the love of another person, we cycle toward the light of HOPE and experience consolation beyond all imagining.
  • Read the parable of the Prodigal Son Luke 15:11 – 32.
  • Look closely and prayerfully at the play of darkness and light in the painting above. What is your first overall impression? What emotions come to mind? What surprises or inspires you?
  • The Prodigal Son
    Notice the son kneeling before his father. He is so desolate that he is even missing a shoe. When have you been like the prodigal, ungrateful to a parent or benefactor, squandering your time, talent or treasure as a non-faithful steward, falling into harmful patterns, habits or addictions, knowing remorse, regret? Tell God about these times, ask for forgiveness, ask for the grace to forgive yourself.
  • The Elder Son
    Prayerfully reflect on your identification with the elder son. When have you experienced the desolation of openly or secretly resenting the love, success, admiration, power, acclaim, prestige, advantage of another person? When have you felt cheated, neglected, less than? Recall times of bitterness, abuse. When was your sacrifice, generosity, goodness, contribution or work underrated, underappreciated or dismissed? Be honest with God about these experiences.
    Moving toward consolation, hear God whisper to you in prayer as suggested by this Sunday’s Gospel, “All of your work, love and sacrifice I have seen and appreciated. I treasure your effort. I will forever hold your goodness in my heart. Whatever you have done for the least of my brothers or sisters you have done it for me. Know and feel my gratitude which you will experience fully when we embrace in thanksgiving in my kingdom.”
  • The Father
    When like the father have you experienced rejection by a child or another person? To be left alone, rejected or abandoned through broken relationships, circumstances or death is a deep grief of desolation. Whom do you miss? Share this experience with the Lord.
    Moving toward consolation, affirm the truth that God desires to comfort, heal and embrace us in our grief. God not only weeps with us but empowers us with the grace of endurance.
    The father offers his desolate younger son and his resentful older son acceptance. When have you forgiven, extended mercy, compassion, benevolence whether or not it was deserved? What have you sacrificed because you loved? Tell the Lord about these times and rejoice that you are blessed to be an instrument of consolation in someone’s desolation. Refer to Prayer Practice A above for a deeper reflection on your love.
    The father takes action. He runs to meet his lost son. He plans a feast and gives direction for the care of his sons. He makes the time to explain himself to the older son. What action are you being called to take as a person who will bring consolation to another? Asked the Lord for direction. Take action.