One day a 3rd Grade teacher read the Prodigal Son story to her religion class. As they were discussing the story, she asked them: “Now who was really sad when the Prodigal Son came back home?” One 3rd Grade boy raised his hand and said: “The fatted calf.”
This is the most famous of Jesus’ parables that we hear again in today’s Gospel. It may be the greatest story of all time (Luke 15: 1-3, 11-32). It is such a human story. Every family goes through what happens in the story.
The younger son wants his freedom. He wants to party with his friends. He wants what is coming to him and his wants it NOW. He wants to leave home. He rejects the values that his folks have instilled in him.
The older brother stayed home and was faithful, dutiful. The older brother, like a lot of us, was leading a quiet and respectful life. A sinner at times, but only venial sins, unlike the mortal sins of the younger brother.
The younger brother wants it all, but then he blows it all on fast women and slow horses. He hits rock bottom. He’s broke. He has no friends.
He comes to his senses and says, “My father’s hired workers have food to eat and I’m dying of hunger. I will go to my father and say, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son. Treat me as you would treat your hired hands.’”
Question: Was his sorrow sincere? Was he really sorry? Really repentant? Or was he just faking it because he was broke, hungry and at rock bottom? We’ll never know!
But we sure know how the older brother felt. A lot like us! No sympathy for his younger brother. If he could, he’d run him off the property.
Remember: As the older brother, he was going to get two-thirds of the inheritance. The younger brother got one-third. Even with the younger brother blowing his one-third, his two-thirds was safe and secure.
As I said, the older brother was a lot like us, he lived a quiet, respectable life. He was a sinner, but a venial sinner. We don’t know what was down deep in the prodigal son’s heart. Was he sincerely repentant? We do know for sure what was down deep in the older brother. He was so angry. He was so resentful. In many ways he was so like us.
Question: Do I have a loving heart, so that I can understand why others who often had it rough in life, may need my help, support and forgiveness? If I can’t understand that, then I’m the older brother in need of forgiveness.
So what does the prodigal son do, with us not knowing if he is sincere or what his true motives are? He goes home and says to his father: “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son.”
Do you realize what the prodigal son just did? He just gave you and me the absolute best reason to go to Confession. All it took was 6 seconds to say, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son.” Try it! God, the priest and you will be thrilled!
Finally, there is God, the loving father. What do we see? What do we learn? In all other non-Christian religions – Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist – YOU have to be the one who goes to God. In Christianity – God comes to YOU! At Bethlehem, in the Prodigal Son story and in Holy Communion God comes to you.
God is willing to come and meet us before our journey on earth is finished. We learn that God does not compare or rank his children. Only we do that to God’s other children. God is willing to forgive the worst person that exists on the face of the earth.
One of the biggest and hardest choices you and I have to face in our lives – happens at the end of the story. WHERE ARE YOU AND I – Today? Any day in our life? On the very last day of our life?
Are we with the loving father and the prodigal son inside at the party celebrating and having a great time?
OR are we outside the party with the older brother – angry, resentful, and mad as hell with our arms crossed? Will we stay outside – Forever angry with the eternal blaze of hell burning inside us?
The five most wonderful words that are ever spoken are said to sons and daughters, to prodigals and to the resentful – COME HOME…I LOVE YOU!! COME HOME…I LOVE YOU!!
Which of the 3 characters in the Prodigal Son story are YOU? Are YOU inside at the party, celebrating and having a great time? Or are YOU outside the party – angry, resentful and mad as hell?
GRACE is when God gives us what we DON’T deserve! MERCY is when God doesn’t give us what we DO deserve!