What a great privilege we have in the middle of Lent to hear one of the greatest stories ever told. I’m talking about what’s generally regarded to be Jesus greatest parable. The parable of the Prodigal son or maybe better, the Father and his two sons. There is so much spiritual wealth in the story that Christian thinkers and artists up and down the centuries have used.
Here is how we begin. A man had two sons and the younger son, said to his Father “give me the share of your estate that should come to me.”
Now as many have pointed out, this is shockingly insulting language, especially for that time and place. What the younger son is saying basically was, "why don’t you hurry up and die, you want your father to die before you got your inheritance." He saying basically "I can’t wait for that, just hurry up, go ahead and die." It’s very deeply insulting to the Father.
Notice too, in this one line. Three times he emphasizes me. Give me my share of my estate that’s coming to me. So three times he emphasizes me. Well, here is the heart of the problem, isn’t it. God’s being is forgiving, I mean that in a double sense, it gives away, God is love, to love is to will the good of the other. The sinful consciousness is the one that looks inward. Me. Mine. My prerogatives.
The younger son is showing that he just doesn’t get his father. He does not get the dynamic of his father’s life. But the father respecting the son’s freedom, acquiesces . Divides the property between them. Then we hear after a few days, the younger son collects all of his belongings and goes off to a distant country. A distant country or a big empty space. That’s where the young son went.
Do you see how the link to God, the link to the father, who is giving, is the source of life, as long as we are connected, we are willing to receive the gift that God gives, then we have life and life to the full. What happens now is, when you sever that link and you say let me have the divine life as my own possession what happens by a kind of inevitable spiritual physics is, you lose that life. And you see why. The Father’s or God’s life exists only in gift form. That means when you receive it as a gift, you must then, give it as a gift. When you do that, it increases in you. That’s the spiritual physics. What goes wrong is what you say; I will receive the divine life, and make it mine. Then, you wander indeed into the great empty space. There he squandered his inheritance in the life of dissipation.
And he lost everything
So it goes when we live in the space of the ego and outside of the space of God’s living love.
How wonderful it is that we hear a famine hit that land. That’s a spiritual image.
Lifelessness, dryness happened when we are cut off from the love of God.
The son realizes the lowest level people have more than enough. So he got up and goes off to his Father.
And while the son is wandering off in the empty space, the Father is waiting for us to return. God is not this fussy policeman. God is like this Father who watches and waits for us to return. He ran to his son. Embraced him and kissed him.
There was a proverb in Jesus time that said, an old man’s cloak should never move. Meaning He does not walk or move to you. You must walk or move to him.
You see, the Father throwing caution and respectability to the wind, comes running after his son.
If you want, humiliating himself before the son who has humiliated him.
That catches the dynamic in the relationship between us and god.
Every time we sin, we all have wandered into the big empty space, we have insulted our Father. We said, Give me my share coming to me. Nevertheless, God will humiliates himself before us who humiliated him. That’s a revolution in the understanding of God that is contained in this story.
The son said to him, Father I have sinned against heaven and against you, I no longer deserve to be called your son.
The father cuts him off and does not let him finish this well rehearsed speech.
He said to his servants “Quickly bring the finest Robes/Put a Ring on his finger/ Sandals on his feet. He dresses him up. Reminding him of his nobility. You see every one of us created by God, redeemed by Christ, baptized has this sacred nobility. We can throw it all away. We can wander in the big empty space.
But the Father restores us.
What is the proper dynamic of life?
God gives/we receive and we give back/ and in that loop of grace we come to life.