Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Prodigal Father

Today's Gospel is from Luke, Chapter 15, the well-known story of the Prodigal Son. I looked up the word "prodigal." The first definition certainly describes the behavior of the son who grabbed his part of the father's estate and went off to a distant country "where he squandered his inheritance on a life of dissipation." He was "recklessly wasteful."

But wasn't the father also "recklessly wasteful" in giving his son part of the estate? The son had demanded: "Father give me the share of your estate that should come to me." When should the estate come to the son? At the father's death. What the son says to his father is truly terrible. So how could the father give in to his son's demand? How could he divide the estate and give this unloving son half of it? Because he was "recklessly wasteful."

The other definitions of "prodigal" are: "extravagant" and "profuse in giving." Here we see how prodigal the father is. He is prodigal in love. His abundant love leads him to be "recklessly wasteful," at this moment in giving the estate away and later, in mercy. When he catches sight of the lost son he can't wait. He runs to embrace him and doesn't let him finish his speech. He doesn't put conditions on his return to the family. He doesn't tell the son that given his track record he better prove that he will be faithful before he's accepted back. Again the father is "extravagant" in his love which is revealed in his mercy.

Jesus uses this parable to teach about God the Father. He is a Prodigal Father who gave all He could to prove His love and to show His mercy. He was "extravagant" in His love. He was, we could say, "recklessly wasteful," giving His Son to be crucified in order to reconcile sinful humanity to Himself.

Now we are called to do the same. The older brother did not call the lost son "brother" but, speaking to his father he called him "your son." As we become more aware of the extravagant love and mercy of God, we are better able to see others, even our enemies, as brothers and sisters who are dearly loved by our one heavenly Father.


  1. I like how you use the word "extravagant" to describe the Father. It reminds me of another story with extravagant waste-the story of the alabaster jar. It would be interesting to try to combine the two stories and see how they match up in other ways.

    Great reflection!

  2. Anne, you are right on target there. I think the word "extravagant" was on my mind because last week I was working ahead on my daily web, radio, and YouTube reflections and was reflecting on that very story of Mary who anointed Jesus' feet. It is the Gospel for Tuesday of Holy Week.