Monday, June 18, 2007

The Prodigal Son

Who is the prodigal son, in the parable Jesus taught in Luke 15?

...wasted his substance with riotous living...

And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him.

And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!

I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee,

And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.

And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.

And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.

But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet:

And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry:

For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.

The mercy and compassion of this forgiving father is overwhelming. And the despondent hopelessness of the lost son is all too familiar.

It is always difficult for me to read the passage where the lost son rehearses his self-denigration and begging for help -- I can never get past it without bitter tears. How many times have I gone to Father in Heaven with the same thoughts.

The lost son plans to beg the father to make him as a servant. Yet the father is so overjoyed to have regained his lost one that he doesn't even seem to hear, and apparently no thoughts of restitution or justice even entered into his mind.

I wonder, on reflection, how can a father ever forgive such wilful wasting of his hard-earned wealth? And then the thought follows -- how could he not?

Heavenly Father has no desire to punish his children. He is not vindictive or capricious. His greatest joy is in bestowing gifts on his children. His work and glory is in bringing them to everlasting rewards.

Yet the Father's mercy is not unconditional. He does not owe us these favors. We are in the position of the lost son, hopeless to return to Father's house without his undeserved mercy.

How many of us yet vainly continue in hunger, when limitless bounty is within reach? Why fill our bellies with the husks of swine? Perhaps for some, the day of reckoning has not yet arrived, and we are still in the process of wasting our substance. How ironic, for those of us who, through our own willful choice, enter the mire to wallow with the swine.

I have been there myself, many times. As it seems, at the time it was the only alternative. Yet when I come to myself, as the son in the master's parable, I realize once again that the promise of forgiveness and being cleansed is open to all of us.

The fatted calf awaits. There is still time for us. Let us repent and return to the Father's house. He ever receives the prodigal son with open arms.

1 comment:

bill said...

Oh great. You made me cry at work. I guess I shouldn't be reading these at work anyway.