Nobody can tell a story like the Gospel writer Luke.
Well, to tell the truth, it really was Jesus who was the good story teller. St. Luke only repeated the story like someone stealing their buddy’s good joke. To be fair to Luke, however, he does attribute the story to Jesus, so really it’s all good.
I’m talking about the story of the prodigal son – the gospel this past weekend. I can’t hear that story without thinking about Jen’s son BJ. Don’t get me wrong. BJ was NOT a prodigal son; but he hates – or at least used to hate – that story. He thought the older son got screwed and it pissed him off royally.
I didn’t like that story very much myself for a long time, up until I had my own son. And then I learned that no matter what had happened, if he and I had fallen apart, I would welcome him home with open arms if he came back to me. Maybe the fact that I only had one child for much of my life made that simpler. But I don’t think so.
It’s like the question kids often ask their parents and grandparents – which one of us do you love the most. (We never asked that question in our family because we all knew it was Dave!) But seriously, the answer to that question is usually that the parents and grandparents love all of their children and grandchildren. But different children have different needs at different times. Some children are more loving; others tend to be more standoffish. Sometimes one of our kids or grandkids is going through a particularly tough time and needs our attention a bit more. Like the time that Addie – who will be 13 in a couple of weeks, and how on earth did THAT happen – stopped by our house unexpectedly. She was a bit quiet and I asked if something was wrong. Yes, she admitted. Her mother was being TOTALLY UNFAIR. Now that’s an unusual thing for an adolescent girl to think about her mother, isn’t it? She and I had a good long talk and I hope that I sent her off feeling a bit better.
The point of the parable of the prodigal son, of course, is that God loves us all, even when we screw up. No matter how far away from him our life goes, when we’re ready to come back to God, he will accept us with open arms and no questions asked.
And what about those of us who never stop believing in God’s love? Are we getting screwed like BJ believed was happening to the older brother in the parable? I guess I don’t think so. The younger brother blew it – thought he could live without his father. I know there have been many times in my life where, while I never stopped believing in God, I did go adrift. For that matter, it still happens. I begin to think I can go it alone. I forget that without God’s help, I’m nothing. But I know that God forgives me, not just once, but over and over and over again.
Just like the father forgave the son who made such a big mistake, while never loving his older son any less.
It’s what we parents and grandparents do too.