Everyone who has grown up with siblings can relate to this text. Within each family there seems to always be the wild child. The one knowing how to wrap mom and dad around their little finger. The one the rest of the family seems the need to keep and eye on. Then there is the one never getting into trouble and continuing to whisper under their breath, “mom and dad always like them best.” This brings us to the reading above. We call it the parable of the prodigal son but it is really about the incredible love of a parent for a couple of children refusing to understand how good they have it.
In the parable the younger son declares his independence and wants his inheritance now. To him, his father is as good as dead. The inheritance is quickly spent. The son returns with a plan to be allowed back at least as a common worker. The father instead receives him back fully as a son and throws a big party.
The older son refuses to attend the party for ‘his father’s son.’ He despises his father’s love for that son who wasted the inheritance on prostitutes. He sees his life lived under his father as servitude and drudgery. His father never even held a party for him and his friends though he likely never asked for one. He refuses to attend the party for the safe return of his father’s son. What is a parent to do?
Family fights are so horribly painful. We know each other’s weaknesses. A parent knows the hurt of being caught in the middle. What is a parent to do but love each child unconditionally?
The father in the story is God. The party is a restorative feast to bring us one and all together again under his love. However we are too busy manipulating, fighting, calling out each other’s sins, acting out in resentment, treating God as though dead, despising God for being merciful and so on. We are some nasty kids at times.
Yet, we are still loved. There is a party to celebrate our restoration as one under his love for us all. If we only understood just how good we have it.