In life, people make conscious efforts to change certain events and situations around them for various reasons, but one thing that nobody can change is the past. The past can only come back as a story or a lesson. Where the future would lead you is more important than where the past has left you. The story of the prodigal son is one of the most read and reviewed of all the parables of Jesus Christ, and it fits into our initial thoughts because it tells the story of a notorious past and a rebranded future.
In the parable as the Gospel Reading, today (Luke 15:1-3,11-32) relates, a man had two sons, and the younger comes to him asking for his share of his father’s inheritance. It was a weird request because his father is still living. However, the father did not argue with him but gives half of what he has. After some time, the young man gathers his properties and travels to a distant country where goes on a spending spree presumably with friends and acquaintances.
After a while, the distant country goes into recession with a consequent severe famine, and he becomes poor and desperately in need. The severity of the condition in the distant country makes him hire himself out to one of the local people to take care of pigs without food nor pay. One day he comes to his senses while remembering the wealth in his father’s house and he says to himself,
I shall get up and go to my father, and I shall say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and you; I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as you would treat one of your hired workers.
Rising, the young man heads to his father’s house. While still at a distance, his father sees him, and unlike a typical senior man, he runs to meet him. Catching up with him he does two significant things; hugging and kissing him. He was about pleading for his waywardness when his father orders a robe, a ring and sandals for him and a party is also set up in his honor.
The parable could have ended there but then comes his elder brother who refuses to enter the house and join the party when he learns that his brother is finally home after meddling with prostitutes as he puts it. Even his father’s pleading would not change his mind as he felt shortchanged because of his father’s forgiveness and reconciliation with his younger brother.
The Distant Country
In the parable, we learn that the younger son collected his belongings and set off to a distant country a few days after getting half of the wealth of his father. It is important to note here that the Gospel did not give us the name of the distant country. From the description “distant” we understand that the location is far from his father’s house. The distant country seems to be an attractive, a pleasure destination and at most a “sin city.” The amazing thing is that his money finished so fast.
The distant country represents a severe disconnection from the father’s house. In the distant country, what you see from the outside is not what you get inside. In a distant country, there is instability and disappointment. The most straightforward description of being in a distant country is to be in sin. In the distant country, we lose our connection to God’s hands and from his attentive ears (Isaiah 59:1-2).
Coming the Senses
The crucial moment in the narrative was when the younger son came to his senses after hiring himself out to one of the local citizens to tend the swine in his farm without food and pay; maybe his job provided shelter for him. Coming to his senses means that he was all along out of his senses.
In the Second Letter to Timothy, St. Paul relates to being out of one’s senses to being under the snare of the devil (2 Tim 2:26). The younger son was out of his senses when he decided to leave his father’s house to a distant country. He left the stream of water with a just a bucket of water thinking that it would last for a lifetime. He was out of his senses when he demanded freedom but dropped his responsibility in the trash.
Coming to the senses is a spiritual activity rather than a mere thought. It involves a purposeful turning around and having a change of mind which is at the same time the crux of the Lenten Season.
Returning to the Father’s House: The Reconciliation Journey
It is one thing to come to one’s senses and another thing to walk the talk. We are living in a world where you hear a lot of “I will” and little or no corresponding actions. Starting with yourself, you can recall how many times you may have made a declaration about what you want to do or stop doing and how many times you fail to live up to those declarations.
Today, we learn from the younger son how to activate our decisions especially when they would have life-changing positive impacts in our lives. The journey of the younger son to the father is the journey of reconciliation. Repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation are bedfellows, and for every occasion of sin, the three are very important. The younger son repented and moved towards the father for reconciliation while hoping that the father would forgive him.
A closer look at the way the younger son related to his father shows that he knows his father to be a kind-hearted and understanding man. He was sure that his father would have him back, but he was not sure if he would give him the position of a son. His proposal “take me as one of your hired servants” shows the conviction that the father would not send him away, however, he was not expecting to be a son again because he messed up big time.
The father broke the protocols of seniors by running to meet the son. An old man running shows that the case is critical. The situation was indeed crucial for the father; he runs to forgive him without those usual question like “where have you been you stupid good-for-nothing child?” The hug and kiss indicate acceptance and reconciliation.
Moving Forward: Are You Still in a Distant Country? The Father is Waiting!
There are many names for the parable in the Gospel today besides the famous “prodigal son.” Some people prefer the prodigal father while still others talk about the lost sons and the loving father. The latter is fitting because it throws light on the action of the elder son which is the focus of the parable as our Lord gave the parable as an answer to Pharisees and the scribes who were complaining that he welcomes sinners and eats with them.
The younger son sinned against his father but coming to his senses, he returns and receives his father’s forgiveness and reconciliation. But the elder son who presumably is the good son who did not disconnect from the father refuses to accept the repentance of his brother and the reconciliation with the father. In his mind, his brother is meant to die in the distant country and should never have thought about returning.
At the end of the parable, the younger was inside their father’s enjoying his welcome party while his older brother who was the homely good boy relocates to the distant country lost with his judging heart as he refuses the invitation of his father to come into the house. While the younger moves on to a better future with a new relationship with the father, the older son got stuck with the unproductive past.
Where do you locate yourself in this parable? Are you still lost in a distant country? Our merciful and patient father is waiting for your return and the time to come to your senses and return home in now!
God bless you and have a fabulous week ahead.