The parable of the Prodigal Son is
the wonderful story of a father’s love for his child. A young and rambunctious child asks for the
Father’s inheritance. In a small town
where everyone knew everyone else, word would travel about his act of
disrespect. This act would bring shame
on the family, but the youngest son just wants to enjoy life. After losing everything, the young man comes
to his senses and returns home to become a hired servant but at least a fed,
clothed and housed person who could live a better life than he was living
When the father sees the young son
he thought he had lost forever coming, he acts out of love and rushes to him
and accepts him back as a son. This is
more than the son was hoping for even though he knew that he would not get an
inheritance when his father died.
When the brother, who was out
working hard in the fields, comes into the house in the evening, he hears music,
dancing and smells the meat cooking. He
asks one of the servants what is happening and learns that his youngest brother
has returned home, and his father butchered the fattened calf. A fattened calf would feed over a hundred
people so the he knew the father was inviting the whole town. What would the town people say? What a disgrace to be talked about like that.
The older brother is angry and
refuses to come into the house. This act
of defiance hurts the father as much as losing his youngest son when the
youngest took his inheritance and left home for a foreign land. The wonderful part of this parable is that
the father has the same compassion for the eldest son that the father has for
the Prodigal Son.
The father comes out and pleads with
his oldest son, tries to reason with him but the oldest son will have nothing
to do with the celebration. He is
resentful that the father is celebrating and accepting his no-good brother back
as a son. It would be bad enough to
accept him as a servant after the shame his younger brother brought upon the
family but to accept him back as a son was unforgivable!
The older brother throws it back in
his father’s face the terrible life that his no-good brother lived and how good
a life he lived. He always obeyed his
father and worked hard in the fields to increase the value of his father and
his land. Not that he had ever asked for
a feast with his friends in the past, but now it becomes important to him in
his jealousy of his brother and he throws it up to his father.
We often hear homilies about the
father’s great love to accept the Prodigal Son back as his son, but we seldom
address the older brother. It is
doubtful that many of us are like the youngest son; for one thing, it is even
rarer to receive an inheritance early today than it was back then. And most of us have not spent our lives
living off our parents when we were in our twenties, thirties or forties.
We consider ourselves good
Christians; maybe even cradle Catholics who have attended mass all our lives, we
always followed the rules and helped others.
We consider ourselves better than those who live a shameful life
injecting drugs and living a life of prostitution or stealing to pay for the
drugs they so desperately need, just like the Prodigal Son. We may even look down on those people who
live like that, just like the Pharisees and scribes that Jesus was addressing
in this parable.
We live in our own little world in
the United States that is unlike the reality that the rest of the world lives
in today and throughout history. We
would not consider ourselves wealthy in our society in the United States today,
but we are wealthy beyond belief to most of the world. Indeed, God has blessed us as a nation and
that is evidenced by the throngs of immigrants trying to enter our country to
live in a land of plenty.
Our society and social media teach
us that these immigrants are bad people.
Yes, a few of them probably are bad, but the majority only want safety
for their family with food and shelter for them. They want the same freedoms we have that they
could never obtain in the countries where they were born. How do we feel about the immigrant? Do we consider them “Those people”? The term “Those people” usually refers to
someone we look down on as less than us.
Do we feel that the immigrants
trying to enter our country are individual people, families with spouses and
children, trying to find a better life?
Do we wish they would go home, or do we pray that they will be able to
enter our country and find the life they only dream of for their family?
How do we feel about drug
addicts? Do we wish the addict would
disappear from the street corner where we see them? Or do we pray that they find the help they
need to be able to quit the drugs that are destroying them? Would we welcome them if they came to our
church and sat next to us for mass in their tattered and torn clothing?
The father loved both of his
sons. He accepted the wayward son who
shamed the family and the son who resented his father’s love for the wayward
son. Which son are we? Have we squandered the opportunities that
came our way? Or do we act like the
older brother; resentful that our father cares for the sinner who disobeys
God’s law and the law and order of the land?
As we continue our Lenten Journey,
let us examine our hearts and conscience to honestly determine how we really
look at others. Which son are we? Are we like the son who sinned in public view
where all could see? Or are we like the
son who followed the rules but sinned in our hearts? It really doesn’t matter. God loves both us the same. Let us prayerfully ask God for his love and
mercy to consume us with forgiveness for our sins and compassion for