Of all he gospel parables, that of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-31) is perhaps the best known and the most familiar. It is certainly one of the most touching. Possibly we do not always realize where the centre of the parable lies. Is it in the change of heart of the young man who has left his Father squandered his inheritance in a life of debauchery, suffered such hanger that he envied the Pigs who had husks to eat, and then decided to leave and return to his Father? Certainly the young man’s words: “I will arise and go to my Father and will say to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before you, and am no more worthy to be called your son”…. Are very important.
Indeed, these words are deeply moving expression of repentance. His decision to arise and go to his Father, throws a clear light on the importance of vigorous action of an act of will. All the same, the repentant young man is not the most attractive figure in this Parable. His repentance is neither the result of a totally disinterested change of heart, nor is it free from all self-interest: He wants to escape from misery, and chooses the only way open to him.
The central figure in the parable is the Person of the Father. Here we have a completely unselfish and tenderous man, who been waiting for his son to return, and when he sees him from afar off, ran to him fail on his neck and kissed him warmly. And without voicing any reproach to the prodigal, gives orders that a ring be put on his finger (the sign of an heir) shoes on his feet (Sign of free man) and the fatted calf to be killed, to prepare the “best robe” and be put on him. It is not the best among the robes that his son might have possessed before his departure, but the best robe to be found in the house. God does not simply restore repentant sinner to the grace he might have possessed before sinning, he bestows on him the greatest grace he has.
The story of the prodigal is each one of us story. The self-willful departure, the blameworthy life, the misery, then repentance, and return and forgiveness: we have lived all that, and, now is my time!
The young man left home and went to “a far country” and it is this far country, this foreign land which shows us the deepest essence also of our life, of our condition. Only if we have understood this can we begin to return to a real life. The Person who has never felt this distance, even once in his/her life, who has never felt himself to be a spiritual wasteland, separated, exiled, hungry, lonely, can never understand the meaning of Christianity.
A person who is totally “at home” in this world, who has never experienced longing for a different reality, cannot comprehend remorse and repentance. Remorse and repentance are born from an experience of alienation from and from joy in communion with him. It is easy to admit mistakes and shortcoming, but it is much more difficult, it is suddenly to realize that I have broken, betrayed and lost my spiritual beauty, that I am a long way from my true home, true life, that something in the very fabric of my own life, something priceless, pure and beautiful has been destroyed and torn apart. This realization is precisely repentance, and therefore necessary to involve deep desire to go back, to return, once again to find the last home.
The Prodigal Son remembered, the Father “the Father’s house, and the best joy of life. He arose and returned, and the Father accepted and forgave him.
“I will arise and go…”How simple and how difficult. But it is upon these words alone that everything else will depends, both in my own life and in the life of the world around me.
Everything’s depends on authentic repentance, on this illumination of mind, heart and soul recognizing at once the darkness, bitterness and sorrow of our fallen life, and light of divine love, waiting to fill that life at any moment.
We will look at the role played by the third Person: The elder brother. In the Parable he is shown as jealous of his brother. He is annoyed that his father grants him very generous forgiveness; and he refused, despite all his Father’s treaties to take part in the rejoicing. But this is just the opposite of what actually takes place when a sinner returns and Every Prodigal Son who returns does so at the Prompting of the elder Son. The son to whom the father’s says: “thou art with me, and all that is mine is thine!! The Lord Jesus takes the sinner by hand and leads him/her to the Father. But, the return will depends on my acceptance that I have sinned, I have denied my Savior, I have chosen the world; its sins, its immorality is love of the self instead of God. Now it is time to return to the warmth and love of my Father house.
Metropolitan Archbishop Paul
Primate of Australia, New Zealand and the Philippines