The story of the Prodigal Son
Of all the parables this one needs no introduction. It is the most popular of parables and as well known as the Good Samaritan.
What can we say that we have not already been said?
It is of course the greatest parable of forgiveness. Seen alongside the parable of the fig tree in last Sunday's Gospel, it is about giving someone another chance, even when in all human wisdom they are undeserving.
The question is - who can we relate to immediately in the story? The patient forgiving father, the reckless waster of a son, or the diligent yet resentful brother who did no wrong?
Can we relate the parable to any incident in our own upbringing about a family member?
Is there an incident of forgiveness in my life where I was forgiving or forgiven, or still resentful and refusing to forgive another?
How willing and ready am I to reconcile or be reconciled? Is there something I have yet to to do to repair a broken relationship?
Have I experienced the joy of being forgiven? Am I prepared to 'pay it forward?'
Am I in conflict with anyone? Have I sought to clear up a misunderstanding, or at least made a reasonable effort at home, in the workplace, in my family, in my marriage, among my siblings, my neighbours?
Can we relate it to our Western society or Irish society with the present economic downturn. We had it good for a while, yet mistakes were made and now like the Prodigal Son we all 'feel the pinch'. We might even feel like the resentful brother paying the price it seems for the mistakes of others. We can allude to the waste spending of the so called good times and the ghost estates, boarded up businesses and full planes to Australia and Canada with unemployed graduates. Are we 'coming to our senses'?
Are we returning to the Father having strayed from His paths?
Finally I think this parable is about three understandings of freedom. The boy at the beginning of the story thought he was free to do as he pleased. At the end he had made a decision internally and was free in his decision to return to the Father free from his passions. With the father's ready forgiveness he was externally free as well.
Jesus said 'you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.' May we experience the joy and freedom forgiveness brings in our relationship with God and with one another. Then, in the immortal words of Martin Luther King, we can say: 'Free at last, thank God I am free at last!'