The younger son:
- Wanted his father dead, wanted his inheritance now, wanted life away from family or home
- He exiled himself. He traveled to a pagan land and associated with sinners.
- Unwanted Semite in our village; lets give him a job he cannot have; He does the job anyway.
- His deepest desire was for pig food.
- He had sunk to the depths. Jesus describes a sinner who was the epitome of unclean and had sinned so egregiously against his father that there was no possibility of return.
The older brother:
- Angry and judgmental, he hated his brother as well as hated his father.
- As older brother he was responsible for the family honor but was silent when the father divided the inheritance between them.
- At wedding feasts, the old brother stands outside the threshold barefoot as a sign that the Father is offering his best in service to the guests. He refuses to go in.
- As overt a sinner as the younger brother was, this brother was covert about it; he wanted his father dead too.
The saints call us to reflect on the journey home marked by repentance and contrition. This leads us directly to the Lord who showers us with the gifts of the heavenly feast to give us strength and life so that we might continue the journey. The banquet bestowed on the prodigal has all the marks of this joyful Eucharistic feast. He has prepared for us his choicest wines. This is the cup of the new and eternal covenant, poured out for all so that sins may be forgiven.
This is a father who delights in showing mercy. Twice he leaves his house to bestow extravagant love to his children. If he had stayed home, he would have had one dead child and one ungrateful servant. Instead he wanted two sons. So, he does the unexpected. He sees a sinful child still far off and he is filled with compassion. Not waiting for the child to come to him, he goes first, to protect him from the judgment of those who condemn sinners, and second to bestow gifts of mercy, freedom and honor. For the second son he leaves the celebration to make clear that the invitation is to sinners, to those who because of pride remain distant, and to those on the outside who do not feel welcome at the feast. It is Jesus who has left the house of heaven, and is outside with us, inviting us and all sinners to the life he came to give. And to make clear that there is nothing that will separate us from the love of God.
The saints want us to experience this immeasurable generosity of God, using words like "ineffable benefit," "august mystery," and "flaming outburst" to describe the inexpressible Love of God. They want us to experience the depths of this love that we might also learn to love without measure.
This is a father who delights in showing mercy. The parable of a Father and two sons is a tool Jesus used to assure us that there is no one who has an unforgivable sin and that God is simply waiting to shower unspeakable joy on the worst of sinners, sinners who return to him.
This is a parish that is rich in opportunities for the Sacrament of Penance. Come to that sacrament often if you are indeed working on your spiritual life.
It is Jesus who has left the house of heaven, and is outside with us, inviting us and all sinners to the life he came to give. And to make clear that there is nothing that will separate us from the love of God.