THE TRAGEDY OF A GOOD FATHER
Contemporary exegetes have opened up a new way of reading the parable traditionally called «the prodigal son», to discover in it the tragedy of a father who, in spite of his «unbelievable» love for his sons, doesn’t succeed in building a united family. That would be, according to Jesus, the tragedy of God.
The action of the younger son is «unforgiveable». Takes his father as dead and asks for his part of the inheritance. In this way he breaks the solidarity of the home, throws the honor of the family on the ground, and puts his future in danger when he forces the division of their lands. The hearers ought to be scandalized when they see that the father respects the unreasonableness of his son and puts his own honor and authority at risk. What kind of father is this?
When the young man, destroyed by hunger and humiliation, comes back home, the father again surprises them all. «Moved within» he runs to his encounter and effusively kisses his son in front of everyone. He forgets his own dignity, he offers him forgiveness before he even declares his guilt, he reestablishes him in his honor as son, he protects him from the rejection of the neighbors, and organizes a party for all. Finally they could live as a family with dignity and joy.
Unfortunately the older son isn’t there –a man of correct and ordered living, but with a hard and resentful heart. When he comes home, he publicly humiliates his father, willing to destroy his brother, and refuses to come into the celebration. After all is said and done, he would party «with his friends» but not with his father and brother.
The father again goes out to encounter him and reveal the deepest desire of a father’s heart: see his sons seated at the same table, sharing a festive banquet in friendship, putting behind them confrontations, hatreds and condemnations.
Peoples who are confronted with war, blind terrorism, divisive politicians, religions of hardened hearts, countries plunged into hunger… we will never share the Earth in a way of dignity and joy if we don’t see each other with the compassionate love of God. This new gaze is the most important thing we the followers of Jesus can introduce into the world today.
José Antonio Pagola
Translator: Fr. Jay VonHandorf