At times we might elude ourselves into thinking that we do things perfectly. Such an outcome, however, closes us to other outcomes, leading us to disregard other things which can be important to us. This self-centered attitude stops us from undergoing conversion.
At times we are not too dissimilar to the elder brother, behaving by the book. There is a reversal in the roles here. It is the elder brother, not the younger one, who is in trouble. The elder brother is in the place of the younger one, and it is with this realization that the elder brother can start undergoing conversion.
Whereas the younger brother strived to return to the Father, the elder one pretended there was unity when in fact there was none. It was not easy for the younger son to go back. The elder son, on the other hand, realizes that he didn’t receive the hug of the Father because he has not yet realized that he needed it first.
Christ, despite being a Son, lived as a servant and not as a Son, to teach us that to be a Son is to be a servant. Yet how do I look at those around me? How can I, in my daily life, be like the Father and embrace those around me, even when they are a cause of harm and suffering? How can I reach out to those around me?
We might not necessarily be squandering what we have but we might not necessarily be appreciating the love of life either
The image we have here is that of the Giving Father, giving away even without the son asking for anything. As Jesus once said, “Ask and it will be given you” (Matthew 7:7). Here there was even no need to ask. Perhaps we, too, do not really realize how much we have received. We might not necessarily be squandering what we have but we might not necessarily be appreciating the love of life either.
This love is a love that waits. It is a patient love. Loving someone implies immediacy. One strives to be with the beloved all the time. The Father, too, wants us to give Him attention all the time. He loves us so much that he allows his Son to leave, no matter how stupid he knows that is, no matter how hurt and sadness this has caused him.
Yet, the One who suffers most for others goes unnoticed. Everything – the pains and the joys, the sadness and the relief – come together in a hug. The Father didn’t even say, “I love you.” He simply hugged his son, and that same hug healed the son. We should be grateful for having a patient God.
This patience – and sadness and pain – of the Father is the same patience, sadness and pain of our parents, friends, teachers, priests, religious people and all of those who are there for us. Do we see the pain we might cause them? Are we there for them when they cannot be there for us?
Image: The State Hermitage Museum