The Parable of the Prodigal Son, or the another way of naming it, the Parable of the Forgiving Father, is one of the most profound examples of the extent to which our God will love us, welcome us back and embrace us. I think that we could safely say that real love is often manifested in the desire to forgive, and demonstrated by the words and gestures of forgiveness. Another aspect of this story is the opportunity to see bits of us in all the characters, as displayed in their attitudes and actions. The trump card of course, is the Father; and the way that he deals with his Sons, and his inner wisdom which causes him to wait and wait, for the return of his son.
On the other hand let’s not forget why Jesus told this parable; it was to answer the misgivings of the so called Legal Eagles of the Jewish Law. They watched Jesus, and the company that he was keeping, not only in this instance, but most of the time; these people were like and ongoing Royal Commission into Our Lord’s past and present activity.
The Father knew his boys, like most people do, who are involved with the formation of their children. Sometimes we can predict what they are going to do, which may not be to their benefit, and there is that distinct desire to save them from it. On the other hand, there is a somewhat more balanced measure taken as we see in this story, and that is to let him go and experience what he needs to know….The story tells us that after he had lost all his worldly goods and reputation, he decided to eat humble pie…in this case, pig food, because he had hit rock bottom, and from that point, he could see more clearly what he still does have, and that nothing could take it away from him; all he had to do was respond positively with a contrite heart.
Notice it says in the story…..’While he was still a long way off, his father saw him, and was moved with pity…’ What an extraordinary expression…..moved with pity! We ask the question: where in the Father’s body did that movement take place? It would seem that there was a similar movement in Jesus when he called his friend Lazarus out of the tomb! The movement took place where we too are moved to tears, moved to laughter, moved to fright and moved to love…….from our guts! That is where true compassion is manifested, and then conveyed through action. Compassion….com, means with, passio means suffering….Compassion is the ability to suffer with someone. The Father did exactly that!
So often when dealing with our Teens, and with adults, it can be right on the tip of our tongue to say to them…’I told you so….you deserved all that you got.’ Not here; we see the Father so absorbed in compassionate loving forgiveness, he knew that his son had learned the hard way. It would not have entered the Father’s mind to say….anything; the Father’s hug was the sign of forgiveness, and the beginning of celebration!
Finally, let’s have a brief look at the older son; the complete opposite to his father; filled with anger, he could not get over that almighty speed hump of his arrogance and pride. So filled with self importance, and being a goody-goody, his reservoir of compassion had a concrete slab over it. If anyone could melt his arrogance and pride, it was his Father…..” My son, you are with me always, and all I have is yours, it is only right that we celebrate and rejoice, because your brother has come to life.” Question: Where are we in this evergreen story? Food for Thought!
The Story of Abbot Anastasius and Brother James
Once there was a very holy Abbot called Anastasias who belonged to the Order of St.Anthony in the Desert and he lived in the area of Mt.Sinai in Egypt. In fact, he was considered a saint by his fellow desert Monks. One day when a Monk by the name of Brother James sinned, and was told to leave the community, Anastasius got up and walked out with him, saying, ‘I too am a sinner.’ James, however, did not reform and fell very low. Years later, he came to visit Abbot Anastasius as he was saying his evening prayer.
‘Forgive me for interrupting your prayer and making you break your Monastic Rule,’ James said.
‘Don’t worry,’ Anastasius replied. ‘My Rule is to receive you with hospitality’.
And he gave him food and lodgings for the night. Now Anastasius had an old copy of the Bible, which was worth quite a bit of money. Seeing the book, James took it with him when he was leaving next morning. When Anastasius realized that he had stolen the book, he didn’t follow him, fearing that he might only make him add the sin of perjury to that of theft. James went to a nearby merchant to sell the book, asking a high price.
‘Give me the book for a little while so that I can find out whether it’s worth that much’, the merchant said.
He took it to Abbot Anastasius. Anastasius took one look at it and said, ‘Yes, this is a splendid book. In fact, it’s worth much more.’ The buyer came back and told the thief what Anastasius had said.
He asked, ‘was that all he said? Did he make no other remarks?’
‘No,’ said the merchant,’ he didn’t say another word.’
On hearing this, James was deeply moved, and said, “I’ve changed my mind. I don’t want to sell the book after all.’ And he hastened back to Anastasius, and, with tears in his eyes, gave him back the book and begged his forgiveness. Anastasius received him with the same kindness as before.
He simply said, ‘I forgive you. Keep the Book. Read a little from it each day, and pray to Christ who received sinners like us, and brought them back to God’s love and friendship. Now go in peace.’
His fellow Monks were surprised to see him wasting his time on someone like James, but he said, ‘Tell me, if your Religious Habit (Robe) is torn, will you throw it away? And they replied, ‘No, we will mend it and put it back on.’ Then he said, ‘If you take such care of your robe, will not God be merciful to one who bears his image?’
And the kindness of Anastasius paid off. James changed his life. He returned to the life of a Monk and became known for his goodness and holiness.
Anastasius placed kindness, hospitality and mercy towards fellow human beings above the practice of penance and the observance of his Monastic Rule. He modeled himself on Jesus. Jesus sat down and ate with sinners, which means he became their friend.
When a person combines true religion and deep humanity, you have a powerful combination. It’s like well-polished mahogany. Here you have true holiness.
Fr Kevin Walsh
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Web:https://realhomilies.wordpress.com/