Saturday, March 9, 2013

Fourth Sunday of Lent: Prodigal Son, Prodigal Father

Prodigal Son, Prodigal Father

This famous and beautiful parable of Jesus is popularly known as "The Parable of the Prodigal Son".  If you look up the word prodigal you will find it has at least two different sense, one negative and the other positive.

: characterized by profuse or wasteful expenditure : lavish prodigal
feast> <prodigal outlays for her clothes>
: recklessly spendthrift prodigal
: yielding abundantly : luxuriant —often used with of prodigal
of her bounty — H. T. Buckle>
Now, the reason that the son is described as prodigal is, clearly, not in a positive sense, as I am sure we all know:

"... the younger son collected all his belongings and set off to a distant country where he squandered his inheritance on a life of dissipation."

The prodigal son measures the value of his life in terms of things and not people.  He takes all his possessions, all gifts from the father, gathers them up and leaves home in order to use those things in evil ways, among them to lure other people into sinning with him by offering them a share in his worldly riches.  Evil compounds itself when things that are good, gifts given in love from the Father, are used in a utilitarian sense: people are not seen as ends in themselves but as means to an end whether personal pleasure or power.

The prodigal selfishness of the son finds a response in the prodigal love of the Father which cures by the power of witness because based not upon a calculus of what the Father wants but upon what the son needs. The son was not loving others and experienced a kind of slavery or bondage within himself because he used others for himself, just like things, rather than loving others for their own sake.  He encounters the real love, the love that he lacked, in the Father who loves not for his own sake but for the one loved.

".. everything I have is yours."

Real love converts, inviting others also to the freedom of loving others simply in order to love, not in order to get something for oneself.

What have we done to falsify or to cheapen love of God and others, giving less than a sincere gift of self, substituting the virtual for the real, giving what is convenient or easy instead of what is truly needed?  For example, when did you last spend cell phone-free time with a spouse or children?  When did you last attend Mass not because you had to but because it is a privilege?

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