God Runs

Return of the Prodigal Son (detail) by James Tissot

This post is based on Week Three of An Ignatian Prayer Adventure.

“While he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him.” (Luke 15:20)

I imagine the father squinting towards the horizon, daring to whisper, “Could it be my child has returned?” Although his son is still far away, the father cannot help but break into a run. I imagine an unruly, wild kind of running. Like the father in the Parable of the Prodigal Son, God runs to us—even when the distance seems vast and impossible to cross, no matter how far we have strayed from home.

In my work as a therapist, I listen to the stories clients tell themselves about their own mistakes, regrets, and imperfections. I have noticed that these stories tend to fall in two categories. Either we tend to underemphasize the negative effects of our choices, dismissing or justifying hurtful actions, or we grip too tightly to our sins and get stuck in unworthiness, disgrace, and shame. Like us, the prodigal son makes both of these mistakes; there is both more sin and more grace than we realize. Still, God runs to us.

The First Week of the Spiritual Exercises invites us to take a look at the ways we leave home. Acknowledging our sins is difficult, but it opens us to God’s embrace. This week as we review our patterns of sinfulness, may we grow in awareness of a loving God who runs wildly towards us to welcome us home.

Image: Detail of “The Return of the Prodigal Son” by James Tissot [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Elizabeth Eiland Figueroa
Elizabeth Eiland Figueroa
Elizabeth Eiland Figueroa is a clinical social worker in Atlanta, Georgia. After graduating from Boston College, she joined the Jesuit Volunteer Corps Northwest and served in Seattle at a community mental health agency. Inspired by her experience as a JV, she moved to St. Louis to pursue a Master’s in Social Work and studied the integration of spirituality and psychotherapy. She continues to marvel at God’s movements in her life.


  1. The story of the Prodigal Son has so much meaning packed within its lines. What story and sessions depends,very much, on which perspective you place yourself in. For example,if you take the part of the father,you have a story which shoes the compassion, forgiveness and love which God demonstrates with us. There is also the teaching moment when the son comes home from the fields,hears the big celebration and becomes so angry that he cannot go in. Instead, the father comes to him and explains how all he has is the older sons. And he understands why it is difficult to go in and celebrate when ,really.it has been the older son who has been working day and night .I think in sayin this 150,320,34mln the father is trying to teach the heir apparent the behaviors expected of him and that if,right now,he can’t forgive his younger brother,then lean on him and use his forgiveness . From the pic of the older son,he has been beating his brains out! After all,he was the one who stayed back and worked the fields night and day,kept the hose going, took care of mom and dad. He probably was responsible for fattening the calf! And now it’s gone! He may have heard the noise and thought the celebration for him! Lots of loving,lots of teaching.


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