In perusing the scriptures for passages about fathers, I was struck that the most inspiring passage about fatherhood is about two sons – the Prodigal Son and his brother.
It is one of the most loved and most familiar of St. Luke’s parables. I don’t think I need to repeat the parable, but I would like to reflect on a few elements of the story that tell us about Jesus’ teaching on fatherhood.
He had two sons, two very different sons; one a homebody, the other an adventurer. The father loved them both and gave his sons the freedom to be different. It must have been a difficult decision to let his younger son leave, knowing the ways of the world and how they can entrap. But he respected the free will God had given the boy. He loved his son enough to let him go.
But he didn’t write him off, he didn’t turn his picture to the wall. He trusted that, in spite of the allure and glamour of the world out there, his son would ultimately rediscover the values he had been taught and return. I am sure he prayed a lot, but he had faith and trust and he certainly had perseverance and hope. Each evening the father would stand at the gate watching the road. We wonder what the older brother thought of his father’s nightly vigil as he went about his work.
Finally, one evening at dusk, he saw a familiar figure in the distance. His heart leapt. The father would know that walk anywhere. He raced toward his son shouting, “He’s back. My son is back!”
All the servants heard him. He hugged his son so hard that the boy had a hard time getting out the words of repentance he had rehearsed.
Then the celebration began. As the older brother returned from the fields after a day’s labor, he heard the commotion and was filled with resentment that his father was making such a fuss over his brother who finally came home when he blew all his money and let his father know how he felt, in no uncertain terms.
The father understood and felt his older son’s pain. He comforted and reassured him of the special place he held in his heart. And, he embraced him as he had his younger brother because he loved and forgave them both.
For he was their father.
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