“Quick … we are going to have a feast”. Some would say this is not the typical reaction of a parent upon the return home of a runaway son. He had taken his inheritance. His message was clear. For him, his family does not exist anymore. And yet, when he found himself hungry, with no roof above his head, he had the guts to return to the house he once called home. No remorse here. No conversion. Just self-pity, and a desire to fill his stomach and have a decent bed. It doesn’t matter if he’s put with the servants. When he was down tending the pigs, something happened and “he came” to his senses”, the gospel tells us. It is that particular moment when something suddenly clicks, when he realized how foolish he had been. Indeed, sometimes, like this young man, we need to hit rock-bottom before we come to our senses. After all, some good can always come out of bad things.
Unashamedly, he goes back to his father’s house. And the father’s reaction takes everybody by surprise. Just a dash outside and a hug – and probably a tear or two. No questions asked. No sermons given on “you should have known better,” or “Hope you had your lesson now”. What matters is the fact that the son is back, safe and sound. No wonder the older son is scandalized. The father’s reaction defies all logic. What we have here is utter misery connecting with mercy personified.
Unfortunately, the story tells us that neither one of the two sons really knew the father. And this is, probably, where their problem lay. That man would never consider any one of his sons as servant. He would not do it for the younger son, who dared come back and ask to be accepted as such. And he would not accept it from the older son, who apparently has wasted his whole life “working like a slave for” his father.
It would be a good idea if we tried to apply this story to ourselves. Perhaps sometimes I am a bit like one of the two sons, while in other times I might act more like the other. What matters is, who is the Father for me? What kind of relationship do I have with the Father?
My answer will very likely determine how I live my life as a Christian.