The Pharisees and the Scribes criticized Jesus for being friend to tax collectors and sinners, and that gave birth to the parable known as the Prodigal Son. Jesus told the parable to emphasize God's immeasurable love for mankind. We, God's children often misinterpreted God's love. The father had two sons, the young one asked for the inheritance which would eventually be his. He desperately wanted to take it right now rather than to wait for a later time. Surprisingly, the father gave it to him. Receiving the inheritance, the son joyfully left home with his wealth. After he had spent all he had. He experienced a severe famine and that forced him to think about his father's love. The father received him wholeheartedly, and that enraged the elder son. The father got back his younger son; but that disconcerted the elder one. The father told the elder that we should celebrate because, 'your brother was lost and is found' Lk 15,32.
Asking for an inheritance when the father is still alive is an act of rebellion. The inheritance is given not before but after a person has died. Regardless of the social stigma, the younger son pursued what he really wanted. He placed personal freedom as his first priority, even above his father's love. Granting the son's request would make the father to be a laughing stock, and yet he granted him what he asked for. The father would suffer immensely, and yet he accepted the pain to satisfy his son. True love is tough. The father suffered alone and could share it with no one, certainly not his servants. The elder son stayed home, but he too, suffered quietly. He revealed his inner self when he said:
'I have slaved for you and never once disobeyed your order... this son of yours'. v. 29
A slave has no social status and should never say 'no' to his master's order and that what the elder son felt. The statement 'this son of yours' implies your son is not my brother. Both the sons failed to embrace their father's love. One went away, the other stayed home but felt unloved. The parable seems to say, love is powerful but when we take it for granted, we fail to see it, and that causes disharmony in a family. Both the sons, each in his own way, failed to see their father's great love. Expressing love for a special occasion is easy, but in day to day life, is a real challenge for us all.
The younger son experienced the severe famine when he ran out of money. He worked for a pig farm, and degraded himself to eat what unclean animals eat. His father's kindness to the workers at home empowered him to return home with hope, that his father would treat him in the same way as he did to others. Again the younger son underestimated his father's love. Seeing him from afar, the father run to embrace, and quickly restored his sonship status. It would be shameful for a man with a dignity status like his to run in public, but he didn't care. He refused to listen to what the son had to say. He cared not whether the son would sincerely repent or if it was because he had hit rock bottom. Whatever the son's intension was; above all he is my son, he would say and I love him dearly. The elder son refused to join the celebration. Again, the father went out to meet him and talked to him. The elder son used the term 'this son of yours' Lk 15:30, but the father emphasized, 'this brother of yours' to restate the family status.
The father in the parable placed love and compassion above all social norms, and that is how God loves us.