The story of the Prodigal Son, which is this week's Gospel reading, is a well known story, a story about greed and humility, a story about mercy. I went to the young adult group (!) held by the Catholic Church on campus, and we reflected on this week's Gospel. While I kept quiet for the most part, it was so interesting to hear other's revelations about this famous story. A few thoughts that were shared tonight:
In the beginning, the younger son was very greedy. But not only that, he wanted what was "owed to him" in the form of his inheritance, something only received after the father would have passed. So not only does he say give me what I am "owed", he could be alluding to the fact that his father/family is now dead to him. This only heightens his distancing himself from his father in his belief that he can live life "his way".
What do we throw away to pursue what we want or think we need?
After squandering his inheritance on things he *thinks* will bring him fulfillment, he resorts to thinking"And he would have gladly filled his stomach with the pods that the swine were eating, and no one was giving anything to him". He is so desperate for something to fill him that he would eat pig slop.
Are we ever so desperate that we resort to "pig slop" to fill our needs and desires?
"Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight;I am no longer worthy to be called your son”..... But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him."
Through his sin, the son feels unworthy of the father's love or grace. But the father doesn't merely accept his son back into the family, no he "saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him". The father's love and mercy was not contingent on how the son behaved, it was unreserved and unwavering no matter what, and he gave him the best he had to offer.
The older son's jealously is a reminder of a few things:
One, God doesn't love us because we try to be perfect. We are able to strive towards holiness because God loves us unconditionally
Two, We are not the judges of who is deserving of what. We need to take a reality check and humble ourselves.
Three, does our pursuit of the "good" keep us from pursuing the "best" or the "greatest"? The older son was so concerned with playing by the roles, or doing what was good, that he forgot that the greater good was loving his brother and welcoming him home.
I think that last point is an interesting one. How often do we concern ourselves with things that aren't bad, that may be good, but that keep us from the greatest good? It isn't bad to spend time with friends or family, but if that time spent interferes with our ability to seek God, is the good getting in the way of a greater good? I feel like this is a hard question to answer, especially for the person who feels like they are doing the right thing and "deserves" the splendors that the younger son receives. But we don't deserve anything because of what we do or don't do. We deserve the gifts of the Father because of who HE is, not because of who we are.
And He said, “A man had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the estate that falls to me.’ So he divided his wealth between them.And not many days later, the younger son gathered everything together and went on a journey into a distant country, and there he squandered his estate with loose living.Now when he had spent everything, a severe famine occurred in that country, and he began to be impoverished.So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.And he would have gladly filled his stomach with the pods that the swine were eating, and no one was giving anything to him.But when he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have more than enough bread, but I am dying here with hunger!I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight;I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men.” So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet;and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate;for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’ And they began to celebrate.
“Now his older son was in the field, and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing.And he summoned one of the servants and began inquiring what these things could be.And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has received him back safe and sound.’But he became angry and was not willing to go in; and his father came out and began pleading with him.But he answered and said to his father, ‘Look! For so many years I have been serving you and I have never neglected a command of yours; and yet you have never given me a young goat, so that I might celebrate with my friends;but when this son of yours came, who has devoured your wealth with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him.’ And he said to him, ‘Son, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours.But we had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found.’”