Indeed, God’s ways are a bit strange. After all the sufferings he endured because of his son, there is not one angry word that comes from the mouth of the father. Not one word of reprimand, or guilt-inflicting scolding. The son had prepared his begging-speech on the way back to his father’s house. God knows how many times he went over and over again that phrase: “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired servants”. Of course, the father would not have any of this. He did not even allow his son to finish his well-rehearsed speech. All he does is throw a spontaneous feast. What matters for him is that his lost son is now found.
I highly suspect that a normal father would act slightly differently! I know my father would! He would be, of course, happy that the son is back. But he would definitely give him a mouthful, letting him know that he hoped he’s learned his lesson, and that now he hopes that he would not commit the same evil again. Some kind of punishment would also, most probably follow.
I’m not sure what idea you have of God. What image comes to your mind when you think of God. The idea that Jesus, the Son, would like to convey to us of his Father is a happy, joyful, loving, feast-loving, merciful one. This is what the story is all about. Sometimes we might focus too much on the younger son of the story - the “prodigal son”. As far as Jesus is concerned, the younger son is just one of the characters in the story. After all, if he erred against his father, so did his brother. Filled with jealousy and anger, the older brother did not want to participate in the feast organized by his father. The father goes out to beg him come in. His disappointment in the older son is as palpable as the pain caused by the other.
I suppose the basis of both sons’ mistakes is the fact that they bth had a bad, unreal idea of the father. For them he was just a master, someone to be obeyed. “I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command,” says the older son. Yet, there was no joy in his life. Only resentment, versus both his father and his brother. While the younger son would be content with being accepted as a servant. Still, in spite of all the errors committed, all the father wanted was his son back. The younger one was still a son as much as he was prior to his departure.
A question that we should ask ourselves today is: how is my relationship with God? Who is God for me? What image comes to my mind when I think of God.
Perhaps if we do not find joy in our Father’s house is simply because we have not understood who he really is.