We know this Sunday’s parable as the “Parable of the Prodigal Son.” Indeed, most of the story has to do with him and how he wasted his inheritance. But some preachers believe it make as much sense to name it the “Parable of the Prodigal Father” since the man is prodigal (that is, extravagant and wasteful) with his forgiveness and love. Consider:
- he gave the son his share of the inheritance;
- while his son is living it up, he is pining away for his lost son;
- he runs to greet the son instead of making him come grovel;
- he restores his place as a son and not a servant; and
- he throws a big celebration.
Still other preachers choose to focus on “the older son, the good son, who is sometimes called the “Pouting Son.” As much as we might be prodigal sons and daughters, we might also be guilty of pouting. See what he and we sometimes do:
- he whines (you never gave me even a young goat…). Sometimes we can be jealous of another’s good fortune. Other times, we can be too critical about what does or does not happen in our parish.)
- he has an inflated sense of his goodness (I slaved for you and never disobeyed you). Do you think he never took advantage of being a son? Can it be possible that he never disobeyed his Father? We are always wrong when we judge ourselves by judging others. God does think, “Well Deacon _____ is a sinner, but he is not as bad as Father Paul!” When we do this is we are no better than the Pharisee who thanked God that he was not like that sinner also praying in the Temple.
- finally, he does not realize or understand what grace is. He thought his father wanted obedience. But his father wanted love. He believed that he could win his father’s favor by obeying his father’s command. But his father already loved him for who he was not what he did. He couldn’t earn Grace is not somethings we deserve. It is a gift to be accepted.
It seems to me that at times we are like the Prodigal Son, wasting our inheritance and choosing to sin. But, we can also be like the Pouting Son, thinking we deserve blessings and are better than other people. In both cases, our response needs to be coming to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. As the words of Saint Paul remind us every Ash Wednesday: “NOW is the acceptable time. NOW is the day of salvation.”