The Prodigal Father

Yes, you’re reading it correctly: the PRODIGAL Father. Sure, the son was prodigal in his wasting of his inheritance on vanity, but check out this definition of prodigal:

adjective: marked by rash extravagance

And so it is with the Father’s extravagant love that could be judged by some as rash. His loving kindness is poured out on us, no matter how low we go. Isn’t it wonderful? Forgiveness abounds.

Image: Rembrandt The artist represented the abundance of parental love by painting one male hand and one female hand.

Image: Rembrandt
The artist represented the abundance of God’s parental love by painting one male hand and one female hand.

The “Perfect” Son

Image: Rembrandt's Prodigal Son Wikipedia Commons

Image: Rembrandt’s Prodigal Son
Wikipedia Commons

Let’s continue reflecting on the wonderful story Jesus told of the Father’s immense love for us. Trying to share the conferences I heard on the parable of the Prodigal Son became a daunting task that stalled me, so I’ll just take a few moments to share my own thoughts about the elder son–the son who stayed faithful, who stayed home with his father and did all he could to do what he believed  the father expected of him. I suspect that, if you are visiting this blog, you may be among those who still remain (or, like me, who have returned) home.

What Jesus is asking us to do is to stand back and take a look at ourselves…an objective look. The elder son remained with the father and worked hard–but look what happened when the younger brother returned home–that kid who had demanded his inheritance up front only to go and waste it on dissolute living. Big Bro was really ticked off. No, more than that, he allowed resentment to consume him.

Doesn’t this make you wonder why he bothered to hang around. I suspect it was because he wanted to get something from it. He expected a return on his investment and just couldn’t come to understand that the love of the Father is not based on what we do to earn it, but rather is a gratuitous gift, overflowing with love. Dipping into the Old Testament, I’ve encountered how the loving kindness of God shows up, again and again, in spite of the total infidelity of the Hebrew people, the people he chose for himself. So it is with us.

There are other sins, too, that those who are “good” sons, or “good” Christians may be guilty of–gossip, judgmentalism, pettiness, ignoring the needs of others, perfectionism…it’s darn hard to measure up to those demands of the Beatitudes. Yet, they too need the Father’s forgiveness.

Jesus doesn’t really tell us the rest of the story. Did the elder son catch on and come inside and join in the celebration? I wonder. He would surely be missing out on the Father’s abundant love if he stayed outside and moped.

Note: In Rembrandt’s portrayal of the parable, check out the elder son. He’s the one standing way in the back, in the shadows. The artist really had a deep understanding of Jesus’ story, didn’t he.

 

The Wayward Son–the Leave-Taking

Image: spcnorfolk.com

Image: spcnorfolk.com

I have a confession to make. After introducing (on August 3!)  what I promised would be the first of a series of articles about the parable of the Prodigal Son, I faltered. I developed a psychological and spiritual paralysis, and for that I apologize. I felt it was beyond my ability to express, and it is. What I forgot was, it’s not about me. It’s the Holy Spirit who taps my keyboard.

So here is the next consideration: the youngest son and his leave-taking–that kid who was so self-absorbed that all he thought about was his share of his loving father’s inheritance and all the pleasure, all the fun things he could enjoy with it.

His request of his father: “Give me what’s going to come to me now, I don’t want to wait for it any longer,” was the equivalent of saying, “You’re living too long, Dad. I wish you were dead. I want my money now.” Yikes!

That is what sin is, saying “I don’t want to belong to you anymore. I don’t want to have anything to do with you.” Just to prove his point, he went to a distant country–he got as far away as he could so that there would be no confusion in the mind of his father.

Isn’t it true that our culture bids us to always look for something better? The boy-man denied that he belonged to the father and lived out his own version of the sin of Adam and Eve: “I can do it myself. I can do it on my own.”

A lot of times when we read this gospel passage, we focus on the sins the son committed–wasting his fortune on prostitutes and debauchery! But the greater sin was this–that he left his father.

I don’t want this to be too long, so I’ll continue next post. In case you need to refresh your memory on this wonderful parable that Jesus shared, you will find it in its entirety in my previous post.

Thank you. Have a blessed week.

Based on notes I took during a Parish Mission offered by Father Patrick Mowrer.

Rev. Patrick Mowrer

Rev. Patrick Mowrer