Everyone knows the parable we hear today. There is probably no more famous story in all the Gospels. We call it the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Today I would like to suggest that the title should actually be the Parable of the Prodigal Father.
I am sure that the thought of renaming the parable is unthinkable to most if not all of you. However, what does the word “prodigal” really mean? According to the dictionary it means “spending money or resources freely and recklessly; wastefully extravagant, having or giving something on a lavish scale.” If you think about it for just a moment, doesn’t this definition describe the father’s actions? He gives away his mercy and compassion on a lavish scale.
When the parable is paired with the reading from the Prophet Micah, it becomes evident that the focus of this story is not either of the sons or upon their sins. The focus of the story is on the father who forgives so completely even before the boy finishes his practiced and insincere little speech. With Micah we ask, “Who is there like you, the God who forgives, who pardons, and who removes guilt?” The question is rhetorical. The answer is all too evident. There is no one like our God when it comes to forgiveness.
The parable has inspired art work and countless commentaries. Spiritual writers have written page after page about this story. Most of them spend a great deal of time talking about the two sons, the one who runs away as well as the one who grudgingly continues to work for his father. Today, however, let us focus our thoughts on how fortunate we are to have a God who is so prodigal, so lavish in dispensing mercy and forgiveness.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator