The gospel this week was the parable of the prodigal son. We all know the story – father has two sons, younger son demands his inheritance, the father obliges. Younger son takes it and blows it all on loose women and fast living. Broke, hungry and alone, he decides his only hope for survival is to go back to his father, tail between his legs and beg for a job as a servant so that he can eat. Meanwhile back at the farm, the older son has been working his butt off for the father with not much to show for it (so he thinks) because ‘it’s the right thing to do’. Then the father throws a big party upon return of the younger son – the squandering son – much to the very public chagrin of the older, law-abiding son, ‘WTF?! How does he get a party and I get squat?!’ The father tries his best to reconcile with both sons – each alienated to some degree from the father – and we are left to wonder how it all ends up.
It’s common for us to focus on the two sons in this parable. We can easily relate to these characters. We probably know some people that have lived similar lives – maybe even ourselves. But I was reminded this week that our true focus should be on the father and the extra-ordinary mercy that he demonstrates towards both of his children. Having been publicly humiliated by both of his sons, the father was well within the cultural norms of the day to disown both of his kids, and probably throw them a good beating, but he does neither. What he does is simply give them everything he has and forgives them of their sins. Sound familiar? God gives us everything we have and all that most of us can do is either squander it on our own selfish desires, or throw it back at Him, because we don’t think it’s enough, or because we don’t feel what we got was fair. The divine brilliance of Jesus to understand us so well – even 2000 years after he tells this story. It has been said that this parable is the Gospel of Jesus Christ in a nutshell. And after considering it for some time now I have now come to that same conclusion.
Lent is a time when we are to take off our old clothes – the clothes of these two sons, and put on the clothes of the father, because as I learned this week, it is all about the Father.
“…But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had great compassion…” Luke 15:20