Josh 5:9, 10-12; 2Cor 5:17-21; Luke 15:1-3, 11-32
Fr. Jerry Orbos, SVD in his book, Simple Moments, told a story that could be an example of a modern prodigal son. That Jay left his comfortable home and eloped with a girl he loved. His parents looked everywhere. No words can describe their anguish. Jay never contacted them. He ended up poor and hungry, working in shoe factory and washing dishes in restaurants. His pride kept him from coming home.
In Christmas Eve, after a year of being away, he had the courage to call his parents and asked for their forgiveness. Finally, he swallowed his pride. On Christmas day, thin and haggard, together with his pregnant wife, Jay walked into the arms of his father and mother. In a moment, all their hurts and anxieties vanished because their son finally comes home.
Today’s gospel tells us about a parable, which is traditionally called the parable of the Prodigal Son. There were so many titles given to this parable like: Parable of the prodigal father because the father is overflowing with his love and mercy to his younger son; others would call this as the parable of the Lost Sons, since the elder is estranged to his younger brother; still other would call this the parable of the grumbling son because of the grumbling attitude of the elder brother, which is also important, to his younger brother.
Whatever the title is, what is important is that the parable presents to us what God is: that He is a Loving Father. The earthly parents of Jay in our story, know how to forgive, how much more our God the Father. He is the one who endlessly welcomes His prodigal children without even tiring from it.
Jaime Cardinal Sin, DD, in his opening address during the Festival on Conferences on God the Father in the year 1999, had said that one of the most startling images of God the Father in all of the Sacred Scriptures is the image of the Running Father. This is because during Jesus’ time, running is not something a father, a head of a household does. A person of high importance does not run; others run to him to serve him or run from him to carry out his orders. For such a person, to run would mean throwing away his dignity. It is outrightly shocking and improbable. But that is the meaning of the running father Jesus portrays in the parable of the prodigal son.
Cardinal Sin continued to say that the listeners of Jesus would have been shocked when they realized why the father was running. This father was casting away his dignity, courting dishonour, looking like a public fool, all for the sake of a good-for-nothing, worthless son who had maliciously wished his father dead by asking for his inheritance in advance and who had brought disgrace upon his family by his wanton lifestyle!
But the problem is that we have common distorted images of God carried from our upbringing when we were still children. Fr. Jose Dimaculangan in his book, What is Love, enumerated those, that:
- God is stern, angry, cruel, erratic and revengeful. When a child is naughty, obstinate, and disobedient and make childish misdeeds, parents use God to strike fear on the child.
- God is easily hurt and offended. When a child has done something ‘bad’ parents usually say to project their own feelings. You hurt Jesus! You offend God!
- God is the withholder of love. If the child does not act according to the desire of the parents, he is threatened with the loss of God’s love. God is presented as someone who loves us based on the way we perform our duties.
- God is a policeman and an accountant of our failures. God is presented as being occupied with hostile snooping and recording merits and demerits.
- God is a temper and a tester. God is often depicted as one who delights in sacrifice, who exacts from us countless sufferings and chastises us when we reject His will.
But Jesus teaches us that God is merciful Father who loves us with our strengths as well as our weaknesses. We would not always meet success and we are not exempted from tasting defeat, sorrow, anguish, disappointments, sickness and depression. We cannot escape misunderstanding, rejection, enmity and irritation. But Jesus assures us that even in all of these, his Father’s love is strong enough to sustain us as he Himself has experienced. Fr. Dimaculangan said that God accepts and loves us for what we are even before we approach Him. Since our feelings and moods come and go, our beliefs and convictions change, our love toward another vacillate, we project our experience to God. However, God’s love is constant. He loves us unconditionally, totally and without reservation.
In the final analysis, it is the father who is prodigal because he is overflowing with his love. He does not count the cost of loving. He is willing to squander everything for the love of his son.
See Today’s Readings: Cycle C