My mom and I attend mass every Sunday together. It’s something she and I have done for quite some time now.
This past Sunday, one of the readings was that of the parable of the Prodigal Son. Every time I hear the gospel’s account of this parable, I can’t help but feel a little conflicted with the overarching message, or meaning, behind the tale.
In case you’re unfamiliar with this parable, feel free to check it out here.
To summarize this situation in my own words, the Prodigal Son tells the tale of two brothers. The youngest brother asks his father to grant him his share of the estate, and upon receiving it, he departs with the money and embarks on a rather lavish and sinful lifestyle, leaving the eldest brother alone in assisting their father with work on the farm.
After a little while, the youngest son becomes aware of his outlandish behaviour and decides to return home to his family. He is greeted with open arms by his father, despite his reckless and selfish behaviour, and his father goes so far as to slaughter the fattened cow to have a feast in order to celebrate his return home.
The older brother questions his father’s actions, acknowledging how his brother was greedy, sinful and irresponsible. He asks why his brother’s actions are worthy of a celebration, upon which the father says that although the younger son was lost, he is now found.
I actually find the message in this parable to be conflicted in the sense that it suggests that rude, prideful and selfish behavior by the younger son is worthy of a celebration, while the older brother, who helps his father at his every call and works tirelessly to please him, is presented nothing.
I realize that the biblical meaning of the tale intends to suggest that the younger son is celebrated because he finds God again in his life, but personally, I have a hard time deciphering the overall purpose of this story. How do we know if the younger son is truly apologetic for his actions? How do we know if he ever did repent?
The older son pretty well gets shit on, and if I were him, I’d be pretty ticked.