After a few days, the younger son collected all his belongings and set off to a distant country where he squandered his inheritance on a life of dissipation. When he had freely spent everything, a severe famine struck that country, and he found himself in dire need.
I want to continue reflecting on our doctrine of the Holy Trinity, especially in the light of today's parable, known as "The Prodigal Son."
The first definition of prodigal is, "spending money or resources freely and recklessly; wastefully extravagant." That being the case, we might also dub this parable, "The Prodigal Father." He surely knew his son would run through his large inheritance in no time flat, but he lavished a fortune on the boy nonetheless.
I wonder if Jesus -- in his human nature -- experienced some anxiety as he turned to God in prayer. I see parallels between him and his fictional wastrel. Jesus is also the Son of a fabulously wealthy father. He has gone off to "a foreign country," our world which is the farthest place from heaven this side of Hell. And he has wasted his divine inheritance on loose women: first, Israel; and then the Church.
If love always requires courage, then Jesus must have felt he was running some risk in preferring the poor, the despised and the deplorables.
On Good Friday he will return to heaven, a sorry mess. We can imagine the Father greeting the Prodigal and seeing his gaping wounds, his naked poverty, and his humiliation. "What on earth happened to you?"
When the Father begot the Son, when the Speaker spoke the Word, that Person disappeared into an infinite distance. The Father could only wait for an echo of the Word to return, and the first sound he heard was, "My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?"
The Father has poured himself out in love, emptying himself in a total expression of generosity; and his expression is The Word.
The Son too in total, eager, willing obedience to his Father, has poured himself out in love. We have seen the fluids -- blood, water, breath -- flow from his body in complete kenosis, self-emptying.
In his cry of despair we find even the confidence of the privileged Son has disappeared. If he is saved by the mercy of God it must be after he has lost all hope, after he has no reasonable confidence that the Father should take him back.
In Jesus' parable the derelict does not suppose his father will reinvest him as a privileged scion of the house. He can imagine nothing more than being "one of your hired workers."
I believe love always comes as a pleasant surprise, even to the deserving. (It certainly comes as a surprise to me, the undeserving.) Only one who feels himself entitled would not be surprised at love. Jesus must have been astonished at the reception he received upon entering the Father's presence.
And we have already heard how "pleased" the Father is with Jesus. He loudly declared it twice: once over the Jordan River and again over Mount Tabor. Finally, he has greeted the Prodigal Son into Bliss with ecstatic joy. His satisfaction is infinite, embracing even us in his joy.
We share that expectant joy as we approach Holy Week and Easter. For us that expectation is still edged with anxiety. Our prayers, fasting and almsgiving are practiced in hope that we might be counted among the children of God around the Altar of God's Son.