The Prodigal Family
In my liturgical tradition, today is the Fourth Sunday in Lent and the gospel story appointed is the famous parable of the prodigal son.(Luke 15. 1 - 3, 11b - 32)
Oh that wasteful foolish character...who ran away, lost all his inheritance, and then saw the error of his ways and came home, where he was royally welcomed and forgiven. His father became the eternal symbol of the great forgiveness of God, even depicted in this magnificent Rembrandt painting as the mother/father image as evidenced by the female hand and the male hand. The son became our reminder of how often we lose our way. We never hear from the mother, and the older brother became the symbol of the disgruntled good child who is not congratulated for staying home and doing right.
I am sure we have all heard different interpretations of this story, but I share with you one that came to me this morning from a beautiful woman I know. I don't think I have ever read a better interpretation. I hope you will agree.
“…this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” When I first read the beautiful tale of the Prodigal Son, considered by many to be the greatest short story ever told, I was totally perplexed and just a little irritated. My Sunday School teacher emphasized the loving, forgiving father but all I could think of was how totally unfair he was being to his older son. This reaction had quite a lot to do with being the middle child, mired in sibling rivalry and furious that I was always being denied privileges allowed the older sister and held to a higher standard of conduct than the younger! As I matured I suddenly found myself identifying with the younger son, acting out impetuously; breaking rules; pushing the limits and my parent’s patience. I just wanted independence—along with a warm and loving home—what was so wrong with that? Finally, I became a parent and it all began to make sense as I grasped the overwhelming beauty in the grace and total mercy of the father’s love for his child. Now I am at the waning of my life and I find that, all over again, I am the eldest, envious of those who seem to have faith so strong it is reflected in their every word and action. I am the parent, loving my children with my whole heart and ready to forgive them anything and everything. I am, most of all the youngster, humbled and profoundly grateful for His unconditional mercy and forgiveness and yearning for the safety of home and the shelter of His loving arms. Who are you?