Thursday, December 15, 2005

An Interesting Discussion of "The Prodigal Son"

In one of the parents’ meeting for the Preparation for Reconciliation (see my previous entry The Lost Sacrament and the Lost Sheep), The Parable of the Prodigal Son was read and discussed.

Here is the Parable of the Prodigal Son according to Luke 15: 11-32.

The Parable of the Lost Son

Jesus continued: "There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, 'Father, give me my share of the estate.' So he divided his property between them.

"Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

"When he came to his senses, he said, 'How many of my father's hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.' So he got up and went to his father.

"But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

"The son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.'

"But the father said to his servants, 'Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' So they began to celebrate.

"Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 'Your brother has come,' he replied, 'and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.'

"The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, 'Look! All these years I've been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!'

" 'My son,' the father said, 'you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' "

The Discussion

The younger son asked for his share of the property. His father was still alive. Usually inheritance is divided among children after one’s death. Just imagine what the father felt when his son asked for his share. Yet he still gave it to him without denouncing him.

The younger son went to a distant country and squandered all his money. He became broke and settled for a job feeding the pigs, the lowest occupation during that time. He was so hungry that he would eat the pods that were fed the pigs, but no one gave him anything. This was the lowest point in his life. He hit rock bottom.

After all this suffering, he came to his senses. This is what we call Repentance. He felt sorry for his sins and he decided to reconcile with his father.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him.” This could only mean that his father had all this time hoping and waiting for him to come to his senses and come back home. I think that this is something any parent can relate to.

“He ran to his son, threw his arms around his son and kissed him.” The father couldn’t wait for the son to step at the front door. Instead he ran on the road. Remember the son was “still a long way off when his father saw him.” That’s how happy and excited the father was to see his son come back.

Before the son set out for home, he was ready to work as a slave for his father because that was what he thought he deserved. And yet when the son told his father that he was no longer fit to be called his son, he called the servants and asked them to bring his son the best robe (for he was wearing rags), put a ring on his finger (the ring being a symbol of royalty or authority), and sandals on his feet (for only slaves walked bare-footed). The father had a fattened calf killed and they celebrated with a feast. Because as he said, “he was lost and is found.”

Meanwhile the older son was working in the field when he heard the music and dancing in the house and he asked the servants what was going on. He got angry when he learned that his father was celebrating the return of his son, “this son of yours,” he said, who had squandered his father’s money on prostitutes, while he stayed, worked for him like a slave and never disobeyed his orders. His father had never given him even a young goat so he could feast with his friends. Then he refused to go inside the house. He was now disobeying his father. He sinned against the fourth commandment – You shall honour your father and your mother.

But the father explained, “My son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”

This last part got quite a few reactions from some of the parents at the meeting. Apparently they had experienced this with their siblings and parents. There was this Mom who has four siblings and one sibling was sort of the black sheep in the family. A brother who took his parents' money, moved away and didn’t contact the family for a long time. But when he came back, his parents welcomed him with open arms. And this brother became the center of attention. Which caused the other siblings to be jealous of the brother. Now they have a grudge against this brother and they have committed one of the seven deadly sins – envy or jealousy. But what can we do if we are thrown in a situation like this? We are humans and we can’t help it if we feel that way. And now that I am a parent myself, I can understand where their parents were coming from. We will accept our children no matter what. This is what parents do. I can imagine the worry their parents had when the brother was away, not knowing how he was and I would just be happy that he came back home healthy and safe.


Of course we know that the father in the parable is Our Father in Heaven who is always ready to accept a repentant sinner. This parable just shows us how great and infinite His Love is for all of us.

Next: A Communal Celebration of Reconciliation


Senor Enrique said...

Were there any discussions as to how best to address the envious and jealous sibling?

Reason I ask is being the youngest son and favored by my father (only because he was "ready" to become a father when I was born instead of just a provider and patriarch figure to be feared) incited jealousy from older brothers. One in particular still carries that grudge against me.

myepinoy said...

Somehow, one way or the other we do both.

The only difference is that we don't go to that extent (as the prodigal son).

In all probability, we are always (sort of) like the older son.

Thank you.

Merry Christmas.

niceheart said...

We were not able to discuss how to handle this jealousy. The meetings lasted only an hour and a half and we sometimes even went beyond that time.

One thing that was also brought up was how we Catholics are criticized by other religious sect as continuing to sin even after we confess. We sin, confess, sin again and confess again.

The meetings were held by the catechism coordinator and not by Father. Perhaps, if he was there, he could have enlightened us a little bit more.

But the one thing that I took from all the lessons I taught my son and also from the meetings is that we have to learn how to be a peacemaker by learning how to forgive. And I think that's what Reconciliation is all about.

Senor Enrique said...

Yes, I agree with you. As I got older I realize the healing effects of forgiveness; both for the one forgiving and the forgiven.

My Jewish friends also speak of similar sentiments; that they get accused of going back to sinning after their religious day of atonement.

But in regard to Catholicism and the current Filipino mindset, Conrado de Quiros, my favorite columnist had written a very interesting essay which you might want to read some time: