The Prodigal Son
by Father Charles Irvin, M.Div, J.D.
There are three characters in this Parable that Jesus is asking us
to examine. Actually Jesus is presenting them to us so that we might take a look at ourselves in them. How
does each one of these characters mirror us, reflect back to us our attitudes and condition relative to God?
Parables invite us to enter into the actors and see ourselves in them.
first is the younger son. It's important for us to pay attention to the fundamental reality in which we must see ourselves. And
here the first condition to look at is his radical departure from God our Father.
When he asks for his inheritance, he isn't just asking for a big chunk of money. He is in effect saying to his father:
"I'm treating you as if you're dead. And I want to get NOW what I'm supposed to receive after
How many people do you know who live and act as if God doesn't matter? As if
God might as well be dead? And how often have we had an
"attitude" toward God that was awfully close
to that? An attitude in which we have in effect said to God: "Drop dead.
I'm getting on with what I can get out of life as if You don't even exist". If we're honest, we should admit that we
have had moments of total disregard for God and treated Him as if
He doesn't exist, as if He were dead.
The second thing we need to see is that when we walk away from God, while
at the same time taking everything we can get from Him, we end up in the slop with the pigs. Not only that but we
end up in a state of Spiritual Poverty, and with an Unrelieved
Hunger in our Souls that all of the pleasures of this world cannot satisfy, no matter how much we have filled
our Appetites to the full with what the pigs eat, no matter how much we have wallowed in their slop.
Finally, in order to enter into recovery and overcome our bloated addictions to the drugging effect of this
world's Narcosis, we must admit that we were Wrong. This is the hardest thing in the
world for many or our contemporaries to do. Countless numbers of people simply CANNOT admit that they've done anything
Wrong. And if they begin to suspect that they're Wrong they redefine what they've done
and present it in a way that's not Sinful. In other words, they define Sin away, redefine
reality, and cast their attitudes in new ways such that they don't need to admit they're Wrong.
It's called denial; all addicted people live in
denial the way pigs live in slop. They simply tell themselves that the slop smells like perfume and anyone who says that it's slop
is an idiot and a fool.
But this younger son somehow came to his senses and began to recognize the Truth. It was then, and only then,
that he was able to come back into touch with reality and recognize, #1, that he could Trust
his father to Forgive him, and #2 that he needed to go and openly admit to his father that he
was Wrong and ask for his father's Forgiveness. This required
Humility . . . along with Faith, Hope and Courage. It
required a radical overthrow of his previously held attitudes and convictions. It also required that he would have to overcome his denial and surrender;
he would have to reject his own independence and accept dependence upon his father's Love.
Do you realize all of this is required to make a Good Confession? Perhaps that's why not many people go to
Confession these days. Too many people are looking for cheap
Grace. Too many people are looking for a cheap and easy way of tossing
off a superficial "I'm sorry" to God and then return to
their old ways, ways which in effect treat God's Love so cheaply that they might as well tell God
to drop dead, that they'll pay more attention to Him when they
Next we need to pay attention to the elder
brother, the one whose righteousness was cold, hard, and even bitter. Like many of the Pharisees who knew Jesus, they resented
the generosity of God's Love as it was manifested in the life and attitudes of
Jesus. They resented His Generosity in Forgiving
But what we should note is that Jesus only Forgave those who were truly
Penitent, those who genuinely admitted that they needed to Trust God's
Merciful Forgiveness, overcame their Independence, overcame their Denial and then surrendered to God's Love.
This is something the elder brother could not do. He retained his Independence, even giving his generous father a lecture on being too easy with his younger
son. You see, for all of the elder brother's righteousness, he remained fiercely Independent of his father's Love. He even
lived in Denial of this own need for his father's Tender,
Finally we need to see
ourselves in the attitude and Love of the father. What sort of conditions do we place on our
Willingness to Forgive others? What sort of attitudes do we have in our
Hearts that put limits on Love and Forgiveness,
that put limits on God's Generosity and Infinite Capacities to bring back the Dead
You see, it is the father's Character and Attitudes that we should use to measure ourselves, use to measure the capacities in
our Hearts and Souls to be God-like in our
Love, Compassion, Care and
Concern in Loving others.
For us, however, living in the culture in which we presently find ourselves, the Critical Aspect to seriously look at in this
Parable is the point that in order to be Forgiven one must first recognize
Evil and Sin, recognize it for what
it is, admit to ourselves and to God that we have sinned,
and then genuinely go to our Father and ASK for Forgiveness.
This is the critical movement that is so lacking in so very many people's Souls these days. For we are a people who
live in great Denial. As Scott Peck wrote in his classic book of several decades ago, we are
a People of the Lie. We live in Lying to ourselves by telling
ourselves that Sin doesn't exist, that we have done no Wrong, that everybody's
"Doing It" and so it is okay. "God will
understand", we tell ourselves, and thus Absolve ourselves from
the need to admit anything to Him. That's called Denial, and
it's holding far too many folks these days in
its Seductive and Addictive grip.
Consequently they live trapped lives far removed from that which will give their Souls the
Food for which they hunger and the strength that they can derive from it to live lives in genuine
For what God our Father wants for us above all else is to walk in the
Glorious Freedom of the Sons and Daughters of God. And to prove it and give it to us,
He sent us His only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ. Go to
Him and ask Him to help you ask your Heavenly
Father to give you that Food for which your Soul
hungers so much.
Meditations on the
by Father George Rutler
Pontifical Doctorate in Sacred Theology
|Father Rutler examines one of the Paradigms of Christian living, the story of the Prodigal Son, which is
really the tale of the Fathomless Mercy of the Prodigalís Father. The story shows how one is much more grateful for having been forgiven
much, like the younger son, as opposed to being forgiven little, like the faithful older son. The Mystery of Salvation is played out in
our Hearts, and Blessed is the man who appropriates its meaning, taking it to heart and producing the Fruition of Virtue. MP3 recording
courtesy EWTN Library.