Jesus’ Prodigal Son parable is one of the most famous short stories of all times. Jesus tells us that when the young man realized he was at the end of his rope, he “came to himself.” Some translations say, “He came to his senses.”
What does it mean to “come to yourself?”
Psychologists tell us that we wear masks that hide who we really are. We all wear masks. A teacher wears a mask when teaching. The problem comes when a person becomes the mask.
The younger son put on many masks. He played the rebellious son demanding half his father’s social security savings. He played the “big shot playboy” who tried to buy friends with his father’s money. He wore the mask of starving farm hand who had to feed the dirty pigs.
In the pigpen of his life he came to himself: “This is not who I am. I want to stop pretending and go home to my father.”
He was determined to stop playing games, take off his mask, go home and ask forgiveness from his father. He realized he did not deserve to be treated as a son, so he hoped to get a job as a hired worker.
Though often called the parable of the prodigal son, this parable is really about the prodigal father. He is a father who respects the freedom of his son and allows him to do his own thing, though he knows it is not in the lad’s best interests. Then he waits, never ceasing to love his boy, never ceasing to long for his return.
When the disillusioned young man finally heads for home, his father runs out to meet him. He embraces his son and kisses him, even before he could complete his rehearsed confession. He did not ask his son if he had learned his lesson or said to him, “I told you so.” He did not set down any conditions for his son’s reentry into family life.
Instead, he called for a celebration. “Bring out the best robe, put a ring on his finger, sandals on his feet. Bring the calf we have been fattening; we’re going to have a feast. This son of mine was dead and has come back to life; he was lost and is found.”
He restored the son to full family status and celebrated his return.
The elder son wanted nothing to do with his brother’s return. Yet the father goes out to him and invited him to put aside his resentments and to celebrate his brother’s return. One lesson we can learn from his remarkable parable is this: If the father represents God and the prodigal represents those of us who have not lived as though we belong in God’s family, then this is a great message of hope.
This parable shows a God who says, “You are welcome. Come, be a part of our family. Eat at the table, enjoy the relationships, be included in what this family does. Even be a part of the family squabbles and disagreement.
Try it on for size. Your participation with the family is what matters now.”
God invites us to become part of the family as we are, with warts, doubts, resentments, angers, and all. For when we are part of God’s family, our relationship with God can flourish. We are all invited to come home.
Some questions to consider: Can we love like the prodigal father? Can we give up our resentments toward others and forgive others when they “mess up?” Can we learn to love unconditionally without any strings attached? Can we forgive ourselves? Can we “come to ourselves” and take off our masks and become the person that God wants us to be?
Posted on Fri, September 12, 2014
by The Lafourche Gazette