Dear Fellow Parishioners,
The parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) speaks deeply to two realities of human life which are outside of God’s positive will: It is not God’s will that anyone be lost. It is not God’s will that anyone be alone.
The parable is also mysterious, as there is an element of mystery in all families, If I’ve learned one thing in life, it’s that no one can fully understand what goes on in someone else’s family. Conflict in families is older than the scriptures themselves.
The father acted in a way that few responsible fathers would act—he allowed the irresponsible son to dissipate the family’s substance. This father must surely have known that the younger son would get himself into trouble.
Why does God give freedom to people when God knows that the freedom will be misused? Because freedom is essential to our humanity, and the correct use of our freedom is the cornerstone of our own consciousness.
There is no greater sadness for parents than to have children who will not break bread together. There is no greater sadness for parents than for children who will not speak to them, or to one another. There is no greater sadness for children than to have parents who are at war with one another, or who are “missing in action” – physically or emotionally. This parable reminds us that things in families can go badly wrong. Sometimes these things cannot be completely fixed. But we have a duty to do all we reasonably can to promote peace in our families and to minimize the hurt. That usually requires some form of generosity or forgiveness.
Sometimes it means showing empathy, making peace, forgiving a debt, or pitching in again and again to do more than our fair share. Sometimes it means asking ourselves, “How can I help?” rather than “What’s in it for me?” Sometimes it means accepting hardship as a pathway to peace, minding our tongue and our own business.
Many of us have a clear eye when it comes to other people’s families. However, when it comes to our own families, we expect them to be well-run kindergartens in which everyone gets the same number of Oreos, the same number of toys, the same amount of playtime, the same amount of attention, and the same grade. Real families are more about togetherness than they are about fairness. If the brothers were not able to forgive one another, they would never be at peace with their father. They would pass on their enmity to their future wives, their children and grandchildren, and poison all their lives. We also have a duty to not pass on our strife to others. Two wrongs don’t make a right, but they do make a good excuse.
The Parable of the Prodigal Son teaches us that sometimes it is more important to be together than to have our own way. Sometimes it is more important to be together than to be right.
Fr. Bill Donahue