Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Lent
The readings for the day can be found here.
Of the weekend’s readings, the gospel parable of the prodigal son stood out the most to me. While my parish priest took to the opportunity to teach of unconditional forgiveness of our sins, I could not help but think of a different message, a message of independence and dependence.
For the sake of thoroughness, I would like to first take a brief moment to review the gospel parable. It starts with a wealthy landowner, who has two sons. One of the sons asks his father for his share of the inheritance, in order to sojourn and create his own experiences. Without hesitation, the father relinquishes the son’s allocated inheritance, while the second son remains with his father, in order to tend to the property. While living off his father’s inheritance, the son spends the fortune on cyrenaic indulgences. Ultimately, the son exhausts his father’s riches and is forced to maintain a meager job, even though he is still starving, thirsty and lonely. Eventually, the son overcomes his sense of pride, deciding to return to his father. Upon returning, the father welcomes his son and celebrates his arrival with a lavish ceremony. After hearing of his brother’s return, the father’s second son objects to the ceremony, due to the newly returned son’s apparent stupidity and mismanagement of the inheritance. In reply, the father informs the second son that he also had equal claim to all of the father’s possessions, but rather chose to remain at home. As opposed to sulking, the father invites the second son to partake of the festivities, in celebration of the son’s arrival.
Now that we have an equal understanding of the prodigal son, I wish to offer my interpretation and, hopefully, impart a unique understanding of the prodigal son during this Lenten season. As mentioned above, this parable inspires me to explore the relationship between God and us. One could interpret this parable as a message that God is our advocate, protectorate, life source, etc. While that all may be very true, the fact of the matter is that we, as humans, have a natural proclivity to act as independent units. As students, we sometimes wish to develop independent lines of thought from our professors. As children, we seek independence from our parents. Independence seems to be a characteristic that we strive to achieve. Yet, as we see in the parable, the son elects to lead an independent lifestyle, but is forced to reconcile and admit dependence upon the father. While one could interpret this as a message of our dependence on God, I see a story of self-discovery. The prodigal son, for me, is a message of finding oneself, ending in the son’s realization that he leads a higher quality life with the father. We are not necessarily dependent upon God, as the son is not completely dependent upon the father. Rather, the parable teaches that we are able to live independently through our dependence upon God, as the sons are to their father. That means partaking in God’s vast resources, as we recognize that we only live fully through him. Even thought our dependence may produce contradictory actions to God’s wishes, we can use this Lenten time to examine our actions and intentions, in order to become conscious of our dynamic relationship with God in our lives.
Michael Meyer is a Biology and International Studies major.