My friend was thirteen when his parents divorced. This was a terrible trauma for him. He just could not take it and he started on a spree of drugs, girls, booze, partying… At 17 he had made a girl pregnant and then forced her to abort. At 20 he married this beautiful charming sweetheart. But the self destruction continued. More girls, more partying, heavier drugs…
One day something happened. He was driving by a Church and he stopped and entered. He remembered how when he was still a small boy, he used to go to confession and how this always made him happy. He asked for a priest and he spilled his entire story with all the gory details.
The priest did something odd. He stood up, asked this man to stand up and gave him a bear hug. He just embraced him. “He hardly said anything,” my friend shared. “He just hugged me. That day I understood what Christianity is all about. Christianity is this embrace, this hug.”
There are three protagonists in the parable of the prodigal son – the father and two sons. One decides to leave home because he believes that outside there is more fun. The father, respecting his liberty, lets him go. Not only that, but he gives him his share of the inheritance. Perhaps some of us can identify ourselves easily with this son. We also thought that life away from God may be fun.
And we left. Perhaps we too discovered soon enough what this son discovers. The world promises you a lot but delivers little. It is all a lie. Sin promises freedom, but brings slavery. It promises success, but brings failure. It promises friends, but brings loneliness. Pathetic, no?
Then there is the other son. He physically remains in the house of the father. But his heart is far far away. He is eaten alive with envy and jealousy. “This son of yours” – he daresay to the father – is having the best of both lives. First he enjoys prostitutes. And now he is enjoying a feast that you organized. This is not fair!
This son also believes that fun is outside. He feels he has been cheated out of life. He does serve the father but with a forced obedience, with a slavish mentality. Very pitiable attitude. Like many of us!
Then there is the Father. He keeps scanning the horizon, hoping that his son will come to his senses and come back. And when he sees him, he sprints towards his son! Why should he run? This wayward boy had brought nothing but disgrace to the family and village. And yet … this old man runs.
He also comes out for the other son. He is as patient with him as he was with the younger. He reaches out to him and tries to explain. The story concludes with an open ending. We do not know whether He managed to convince this ‘ok’ man! The people in the Church are harder to convert!
The book ‘God’s Little Devotional Book’ carries a story that is very fitting. A boy once said to God: “I’ve been thinking, and I know what I want when I become a man.” He proceeded to give God his list : to live in a big house with two Saint Bernard’s and a garden … marry a blue-eyed, tall beautiful woman… have three sons – one will be a senator, one a scientist, and one a quarterback. He also wanted to be an adventurer who climbed tall mountains… and to drive a red Ferrari.
As it turned out, the boy hurt his knee one day while playing football. He no longer could climb trees, much less mountains. He married a beautiful and kind woman, who was short with brown eyes. Because of his business, he lived in a city apartment, took cabs, and rode subways. He had three loving daughters, and they adopted a fluffy cat. One daughter became a nurse, another an artist, and the third a music teacher. One morning the man awoke and remembered his boyhood dream.
He became extremely depressed, so depressed that he became very ill. Close to death, from a broken heart he called to God: “Remember when I was a boy and told You all the things I wanted? Why didn’t you give me those things?”
“I could have”, said God, “but I wanted to make you happy!”
(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission is hereby granted for any non-commercial use, provided that the content is unaltered from its original state, if this copyright notice is included.