The Prodigal Father

Fr. Tom Tank’s Homily March 31, 2019

“Well we’re all very familiar with that long parable called the Parable of the Prodigal Son.  We’re familiar with that dynamic that took place there as Jesus was confronted by the Scribes and the Pharisees that were scandalized that he was eating and associating with sinners, with tax collectors, with public violators of the law and Jesus then gives this beautiful parable in which he describes really the generosity of God.  We call it the parable of the prodigal son and the word prodigal means foolish extravagance, foolish extravagance, and certainly the son was prodigal.  He was foolishly extravagant with what he had received from his inheritance. He wasted it all, so yes, there was a foolish extravagance, but I really believe that this parable should be called the parable of the prodigal father because the father is more foolishly extravagant than the son is.  The father had been terribly insulted.  You know, the younger son comes to the father and says in so many words, ‘Dad I wish you were dead so I’d get my inheritance, but since you’re not kicking the bucket go ahead and give me my money anyway.’  And the son receives that inheritance and then what’s he do? He goes off and he squanders it. He spends it all on wine women and song and then he finally comes to his senses. Now the normal father would say, ‘Son, what goes around comes around.  You gotta accept the punishment. You gotta accept the consequences.’ But that’s not what the father does in this situation and the father is representative of God and the father, first of all he’s looking out for him. He doesn’t go seek him out. He doesn’t go and try to grab him by the neck and bring him back because he wants that son to know his own free will and his own need for reconciliation, but when he sees the son he goes out and grabs him and the son says, ‘Father I no longer deserve to be called your son.’  And the father says, ‘I love you.’ And he puts a ring on his finger and a cloak on him and he says, ‘We have to have a party for you.’  That’s a prodigal father. Foolish extravagance with his love, but that’s how God the father treats every one of us with that extravagant love that he embraces him no matter what our sin may be if we but come to our senses and recognize our need for forgiveness and if we but approach him in that beautiful sacrament of reconciliation that we come to know that abundant love of such a prodigal father who forgives us and always welcomes us into deeper union with him, but the real enigma in this particular parable is the elder son who is really representative there of the Scribes and the Pharisees, but also maybe represents some of us as well, the ones who have been faithful and saying, ‘Why are you forgiving that guy?  Why are you forgiving that brother of mine who was so dissolute?’ And he holds that grudge and what’s interesting in the parable we never know what happens to him. That’s an open ended question. It’s an open ended response and so it is with us that if we tend to be judgemental, if we tend to be condemnatory of other people, we never know what God’s grace is going to do in our lives.  It’s up to us to respond.

St. Paul in the second reading today really approaches this from a little different perspective where St. Paul there says that, ‘Through the blood of Christ on the cross we have been reconciled.  We have reconciliation with the father because of the abundant love of Christ Jesus.’ We have that reconciliation and we are called not only to experience reconciliation ourselves, but we have the ministry of reconciliation that we are called to be reconcilers.  We are called to be ambassadors of the reconciliation of God, so not only are we challenged to accept it into our own lives, but we are challenged to bring it into our world, into our families, into marriages, into work situations, into neighborhoods, to be reconcilers, to be people who show tremendous love in care for others.  That is the tremendous challenge that we have.

I’m reminded of the Beatitudes: blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children of God.  All of us are children of God by reason of our baptism. We’re adopted sons and daughters. That’s our dignity, that’s our vocation, that’s our call, but we are also called to be peacemakers, to truly be reconcilers, to truly bring that prodigal love of the father not only to touch our lives, but to touch others as well.  What a privilege that is, how blessed we are and how challenged we are to become a peacemaker in turn, to truly share the ministry of reconciliation. To know God’s love and to share that love with others.”