Prodigal in Love

Luke 15:1-3,11-32
Mi 7:14-15,18-20 / Ps 103

 

‘My son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.’
(Luke 15:31)

Who can measure up to God’s love?
How can we repay His graces?
They come down like rain from above,
Let’s just shout with joy His praises!

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to Jesus. But the Pharisees and the scribes muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So Jesus told them this parable: “A man had two sons. The younger said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them. After a few days, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, a severe famine struck that country, and he found himself in dire need. So he hired himself out to a local citizen, who sent him to his farm to tend swine. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. Coming to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will go back to my father and shall say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him. The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son.’ But the father ordered his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Take the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate. Now, the older son had been out in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has returned,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’ ‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’” (Luke 15:1-3,11-32)

Reflection

The dictionary defines the word prodigal as: “recklessly extravagant”; “giving profusely or lavishly”; “spending money freely and recklessly; wastefully extravagant.” With these definitions in mind, it might be said that the three main characters in our Lord’s beautiful parable about forgiveness were all guilty of being prodigal. Of course, the word clearly points to the profligacy of the younger son, who mindlessly wasted all of his inheritance in debauchery and dissipation. But wasn’t the father extravagant and reckless too, giving in to the young, brash heir, who demanded his inheritance even if his father was still alive? Aren’t some of us fathers guilty of spoiling our favorite son or daughter whenever we give them more than what they can handle or deserve? Typical of most loving fathers, he could not refuse his son, who wanted to be on his own. Perhaps he was hoping that by giving him his share of the inheritance this son of his would be able to find his own niche in life, and like himself, become as successful. And like many of us, the father made the wrong decision. And what of the elder son? Isn’t he just as prodigal in being so full of himself to claim that for many years he had slaved, and never disobeyed his father’s orders? (Oh, come on! Not even a young goat?) He must have represented the Pharisees in this parable. Being so self-righteous had made him bitter and unforgiving, and looked upon his brother as an outsider.

If you think about it, our Lord Jesus must have also been talking about Himself and His Father in being “prodigal” with their love for mankind. He shows us in today’s Gospel how deep and unfathomable His Father’s compassion is for all of us, that whatever our sins may be, we will always be forgiven, as long as we repent and turn back to Him from our sinful ways. God’s love knows no equal in extravagance. What father, after all, would allow his own son to suffer and die for the sake of sinners? And how about His Beloved Son? He has elevated us to His glory by inviting us to his table even in our sinfulness! Such a “reckless” kind of love that took a big gamble not only in becoming a man (subject to temptation), but in offering us a place in His divinity. His love for us is lavish and without measure, too deep for human understanding.

Father God, your brand of love is a great mystery to all of us, so excessive and eternal that we can never be worthy of it. And yet You give it freely, without any conditions, save that we put our trust in You. Thank You, Lord Jesus, for giving us a glimpse of that divine love, encouraging us to strive with all our might to attain that treasure. Amen.

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