This Sunday, the long form of the gospel at Mass includes Our Lord’s parable of the prodigal son. You recall: it’s the story of two sons of a kind, forgiving father. The younger one asks for his half of the family money so that he can leave home and go off to do what he pleased.
A number of commentators, including Saint Peter Chrysologus, point out that for a son to ask for that is like saying to the father: “I wish you were dead, so that I could inherit your money and have it now when I am young and can enjoy it more.” The foolish young man wanted MONEY and he wanted to GET AWAY. The father, no doubt knowing what would happen, did what the son asked. A year or so later, the young man comes back, much sadder (in fact, practically starving to death) and also much wiser. “Father, I am not worthy to be your son. But can you give me a job on the farm and treat me like a field hand?” And while he is still saying that, the father is embracing him, ordering a big party to celebrate his return, and totally forgiving him his foolish squandering of half the family money.
It is interesting that Our Lord would paint this picture of His father and ours, almost making God our Father look foolish in giving in to a rash, irresponsible young adult and then being so happy when the man comes back penniless, dirty, and hungry. But—and this is the key concept—he comes back contrite. He has learned his lesson; he is sorry; and when his father DOES die, he will grieve the loss of this kind, patient, understanding and forgiving parent. He has become mature, mellow, and wise. And he will never forget his stupid behavior, and never repeat it.
In our own ways, you and I are also immature, foolish, irreverent toward God. We have been selfish, stubborn, eager to do our own will rather than the will of our heavenly Father. The question is: have we achieved the maturity to know that God’s will is better? Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.
Note: This message was composed some years ago.