By stopping the story midway, we are left pondering the response of the father to his returning son. “But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion…” Could that have been your response? A disrespectful young buck demands his inheritance early and takes off for a distant city, subtracting his labor from of the household economy and abandoning his family. This downsizing was no one’s desire but his, yet his family had to carry the extra work required because of his absence.
Of course, this perspective is from the economy of work. There is another economy—an economy of the heart. What kind of pain did his father bear because his younger son seemed to consider the family wealth merely a ticket out, a funding source for his wild(est) dreams? There was no acknowledgement of the father’s support and care; no sense of gratitude; no consideration of the father’s need for support as he aged. The boy/man was not capable of seeing a bigger picture.
We could label him a scoundrel, until we realize that his short-sightedness is not unlike our own limited vision of the world. We have fixed our sights on our wildest dreams—wealth, security, power, prestige. We are rarely so obvious about it, but our determination has commodified the earth and our neighbors. We neglect to count long-term costs, lest we experience short-term loss.
Will we come to our senses? When we do, will the creator of the universe, seeing us return, be filled with compassion? In Jesus, God’s compassion is palpable. Nourished by his body and blood, we are welcomed back.
Rev. Catherine Malotky is an ELCA pastor serving as Director of Development at Luther Seminary, St. Paul, MN.
©2017 by individual authors and Facebook Narrative Lectionary Group. This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.