COR THOUGHTS 168: The Prodigal Son and the Prodigal Father

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This Sunday’s Gospel presents the famous story of the Prodigal Son. Prodigal describes someone who wastefully spends money or resources. But if you look up the term you’ll discover a second meaning referring to someone who gives something on a lavish scale. We call this the parable of the Prodigal Son because of the first sense of the word. But in light of the second meaning of the word, it is also and even more so the parable of the Prodigal Father who lavishes his repentant son with love, forgiveness, and celebration at his return. What always strikes me about this parable is that it was the son’s hunger that compelled him to return to his father’s house, just as it was his hunger that compelled him to leave in the first place. Our hunger for fulfillment, for satisfaction – what the Greeks called eros – can lead to a life of “dissipation,” but it is also the force within that compels us to journey to the Father’s house. If we lose our passion and desire, we are lost indeed. There may be a glorious feast right before us, but if we aren’t in touch with our hunger, we may “refuse to enter” as did the older brother. Christ is trying to show the world that entrance into heaven is not a matter of dutifully “following all the rules.” It’s a matter of learning how to redirect our heart’s desire for fulfillment toward the Father’s Prodigal love.