(The world our heart dwells in)
So the “Prodigal son” is by himself, alone, bereft of friends, hungry and literally living in a pig-sty. Who knows how long he has been away from his family and probably never thought about them, or when he did, it was perhaps in mockery and disdain. Being thoughtless, he used his money to buy friends and indulged in pleasures that would keep him from thinking any deeper than where the next party or pleasure will come from. It most likely was a whirl of mindless activity and fun. That is how he ended up where he was. Not poor, but in degradation.
Being forced to reflect on his predicament, he started thinking differently about his Father. Perhaps not in a loving way, but beginning to understand that he could influence him, or manipulate him into allowing him to come home. He had a script, a good one, which would forestall any indignation his father would have. He would simply admit that he was a bad son, and he only deserved to become his slave. So by disarming his father by admitting guilt, he would at least have a place to live, food to eat and his living quarters would be a step up from where he was. So in fact, he just needed a place to crash for a more or less length of time. Since he had such a callow/narcissistic heart, he perhaps thought that all men and women were like him. We can only live in the world that our heart dwells in.
His father, of course, did not play along; in fact, he would have been unable to. His heart was in a very different place. A place where his selfish son would not yet be able to understand if in fact he ever would as he aged. So let us go into the prodigal son’s mind and what would we see as he makes his journey home? I guess the first thing would be the ‘fear’ of his father’s justified anger, something he could not evade, his responsibility for his actions, which in fact could have led to his death. By asking for his inheritance he, in reality, told his father that he wished him gone, dead, no more, out of his life and world. So it was quite the deed. So if he was fearful of anger, as would be expected, we can imagine that on his long journey back home he had his story well planned out and his play acting honed to a fine point.
Of course what happened was something else entirely. Something so unexpected that I have no doubt the son was rendered speechless by what he would consider an unforeseen turn of events. Yet for the father, he was merely responding out of his true center; that of a loving concerned father for the welfare of his son. No doubt the father understood his son, his lack of love, or his inability to feel real sorrow, yet he burst upon him, embraced him, killed the fatted calf and had a feast in his honor. In other words, the father made a complete fool of himself.
Yet, there was someone to be feared. It was the other son. Who was also young, inexperienced and perhaps jealous of his brother even before he left home. The second thing the son should have feared was the place his own heart dwelt in. For no matter how much the father loved him, forgave him, embraced him, killed the fatted calf for him, put fine robes on him and a ring….even after all that…. if his heart was not touched, or changed, for all practical purposes he was still in the pig-sty. For we can only live where our heart dwells….It is our world, our reality, our heaven or hell. Only by understanding the father’s love would the son’s heart be able to change. For love is a call into a bigger world, outside the confines of a barricaded heart.
What happened in the end? Did the brothers reconcile? Did the younger son grow to understand the fathers love and to respond to it? Or did the brothers grow in their alienation from one another. Did the younger son after a time of rest, yet again, take ‘advantage’ of his father’s compassion and ask for more money? Perhaps he went out and died in a ditch somewhere. None of that, however, changes the love the father had for his sons, no matter the outcome. Love is a gift, a grace, if it is not embraced, accepted, then that choice not to open one's heart, is to dwell in hell. So what is to be feared? The father’s love, always open, ready to embrace the beloved? Well no. The elder brother, who is not much different than his younger brother? Well yes, he should be feared. What is to be most feared however is the younger son’s unresponsive heart, which is what is to be feared. God is greater than our hearts, yet if we ‘choose’ to keep it closed…..well yes that is to be feared.
For the most loving of Father’s will say in the end to us all “My son, my beloved daughter, your will, be done”. Our freedom is our greatest gift, it gives us dignity, but it is a fearful thing indeed—Br.MD