We all know this Gospel passage…the Prodigal Son it is called. Yet, do we truly know this passage? Do we understand that this is not about the young son, but about the Father.
This is parable of Salvation!
It the wisdom of God about how we participate and live the Salvation of Jesus Christ, and therefore it is about how we find true life! It is therefore a parable in how we can better live out our relationships; as parents, as spouse and family, as friends.
At the core I believe it comes down to humility and ego: with Humility being the heroic virtue in this teaching.
The Father is the archetype of humility. However, in our “macho” view so prevalent in the Western Culture, he is a fool.
He gives away the money to his youngest son.
He waits for him to return.
He runs across the field to greet the son.
He welcomes the Son back without needing any explanation, any excuse, any reason.
He even throws this son a party.
Then he has to contend with the older son who throws a fit, and goes to him and the Father BEGS HIM to come to the feast. He has to tell him how much he LOVE him.
Would we do this??
I am thinking we would say “No” the brats, and let them deal with the consequences of their actions…right? After all, they are adults. Ahh…..and that is exactly what the people of Jesus’ own time would have thought to…and Jesus totally turns them upside down.
The Father is virtuous, he is the HERO! he is humble. He is not offended by his younger son’s demands, he does not need to hear begging from his son.
The Father is humble, his identity is not in his ego. Therefore there is no need to punish, subjugate or control
His humility has created a space in which he loves: he loves both of his sons. His humility, and the love that is present, creates a community, a family.
The sons…we are shown two sides of the ego; two sides that create no space for love; therefore destroy community, destroy the family. The younger son has an ego that demands whatever he wants. He wants the money; he wants what he thinks he deserves and when he gets it, he goes. He wants the “freedom” to do whatever he wants. He places his worth, his identity in that wealth; and finds for a short time friends…but as soon as the wealth is gone, so are the friends, so is the love, so is the community.
When all is gone, then he becomes humble. His heart is opened, and he finds space to be loved. Space because he knows he deserves nothing, but in the end finds everything.
The older son…he too is egotistical. He serves his father, but it is out of obligation and duty. He plays the victim in this. He think he deserves more, he cannot see beyond himself; thus he cannot even see the that he has all. He has no space for love. He will not love. He will choose to remain apart, alone, isolated. He has no life of salvation.
Of course, we read this Gospel passage as the Father as God the Father, and we as the children. YET, the true power of this passage, the call of Jesus, is that we are to be as the Father. WE are to be humble in this perfect sense of humility.
I dare say, very very few of us are not. Humility is to accept and let go of the circumstances we cannot control. Humility is to accept that we really don’t control much of anything, only ourselves The Father could not control his sons. He accepted them and loved them, and when the younger gained wisdom, he welcomed him home. He made the effort to reach out to the elder…but could not make him. The Father was patient; never imposing. The Father was kind; never punishing.
Based on the confessions I have heard over the past 11 years, and based on my own…nope! We are impatient because we want others to do things our way! We hold grudges. We are egotistical. We demand and demand and demand, and we do not give. And that means we hurt the relationships, the communities in our lives.
We hurt the relationships with our parents and kids; with our boyfriends and girlfriends, with our husbands and wives. We hurt the people in this parish, in this community. We hurt people in this world.
We lack space for love.
I heard a great example of this on the radio, in an interview about Syria and how we as the USA must use military force, because we had threatened it, and if we do not use it we will look foolish. So, to not look foolish, we must potentially bomb innocent civilians, and potentially get drawn into another bloody, conflict in which our brothers and sisters in the armed forces will be killed, again! That is EGO killing others
Lets be reminded about God; the almighty, all-powerful creator of the universe, of that is seen and unseen…. Comes to humanity, walks in the garden…and when humanity offends them makes them clothes and sends them to grow, but stays with them. God comes to the lowest of people, the Hebrews, a bunch of slaves, and becomes their personal God, leading them to freedom.
God gives to humanity the beloved son, not in some mighty glorious magnificent arrival, but as a weak defenseless baby.
The Son who dies naked on a cross, rather than summon angels to his defense. The Son who is raised and returns to his community, not with words of guilt and shame, but with love. The Son who comes to us now, in the community gathered, in the word proclaimed and in a truly glorious way…in humble flour and water, in simple wine.
This is humility. This is what we eat and drink of, and this is the life to which by our baptisms we are committed to. Because by this life of humility, we find space to be loved and to love. When we die to our egos, and the need for control, power, etc…we find space to be loved and to love.
When we are loved and we love; there is family, there is community, there is salvation.