A PARABLE FOR OUR TIME
In no other parable has Jesus desired to let us penetrate so profoundly the mystery of God and, in that mystery, the human condition. None other is so timely for us as that of the «good Father».
The younger son says to his father: «Give me the share of the estate that will come to me». To demand this, he is for all intents and purposes asking for his father’s death. He wants to be free, to break all bonds. He will not be happy until his father disappears. The father gives in to his desire without saying a word: the son must freely choose his own path.
Isn’t this the situation today? Many today want to see themselves free of God, being happy without the presence of an eternal Father on their horizon. God must disappear from society and from our consciences. And just as in the parable, the Father keeps quiet. God coerces no one.
The son goes off to «a distant country». He needs to live someplace else, far from his father and from his family. The father sees him leave, but doesn’t abandon him; his father’s heart accompanies him; each morning he will be looking out for him. Modern society gets further and further away from God, from God’s authority, from the memory of God… Doesn’t God accompany us while we go on losing him from sight?
Quickly the son sets himself up in a «life of debauchery». The original word in Greek doesn’t just suggest moral disorder, but an existence that is insane, unhinged, chaotic. All too soon his adventure begins to turn bad. A «severe famine» comes about and he only survives by taking care of pigs as the slave of a foreigner. His words reveal his tragedy: «Here am I dying of hunger».
Inner emptiness and hunger for love can be the first signs of how far we are from God. The road to freedom isn’t easy. What are we missing? What could fill our hearts? We have almost everything: why do we feel so hungry?
The youth «came to his senses» and, drowning in his own emptiness, remembered his father’s face, associated with the abundance of bread: in the house of my father «they have bread» and here «I’m dying of hunger». In his inner heart he awakens the desire for a new freedom next to his father. He recognizes his mistake and makes a decision: «I will leave this place and go to my father».
Will we get on the road to God our Father? Many would do that if they would know that God who, according to Jesus’ parable, «ran to his son, clasped him in his arms and kissed him over and over». Those embraces and those kisses speak of God’s love better than every theology book written. Back with God, we can encounter a more worthy and happy freedom.
José Antonio Pagola
Translator: Fr. Jay VonHandorf