"We had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found."
Our Gospel for this Sunday is the parable from Luke that is generally known as "The Parable of the Prodigal Son." And for the longest time, I associated prodigal only with the son in the tale. You know the story. A certain son asks for his inheritance from his father, because his father has not (we suppose) died quickly enough to suit the son's ambitions. Father gives said son money. The prodigal son leaves for faraway places and spends his inheritance very quickly on roulette wheels, slot machines, at the track, and in more fleshly pursuits. Soon, the son in question is flat broke and is reduced to working on a farm, where the pigs he feeds eat better than he. So, he decides to go back and ask his father's forgiveness and see if dad might hire him on as a farmhand; at least he would get three squares a day. So, he heads for home. But no sooner is he a speck on the horizon, his father sees him in the distance, and comes running like a lunatic; he cannot get to his son fast enough! Before his son can even deliver the speech he has practiced on the long walk home, the father, the one whose son has pittled away his inheritance, his legacy, throws his arms around the wayward boy and weeps for joy. He had thought his son was lost to the world, lost to wickedness, sadness and waste. Yet, the child that he loves has come home after all. All, it would seem, is forgiven. And the father rejoices. (see Luke 15:1-32)
I love this story that Jesus tells. Prodigal actually means to lavishly spend; to waste; to give away recklessly. Yes, the son is prodigal in his wasting of his father's inheritance; he does it freely and wantonly. The father, in our tale of return, is also prodigal. He gives his love, his forgiveness, and his inheritance freely and lavishly, without thought of consequence or fear of being taken in again by his wasteful son. Jesus Christ is the prodigal reality of the God of our life and salvation. God shed his love lavishly upon a world that is sometimes bent on wasting its potential, its resources, and its goodness. Jesus did not think of himself too highly, but emptied himself of pride, shed his blood in prodigal fashion, and upended a world that thinks that power is about money, prestige, land, or power. God is love. God is grace. God is prodigal in His giving. We have to look no further than Jesus in the world; Jesus on a cross to see how God is willing to lavish his mercy and love on a needy world.
Fr. George +