A rich man lived in the Washington Highlands. (Boy, is that redundant.)
All right, so he lived at 65th and Lloyd but the point is he was wealthy and had two sons, no wife…at least not in this story.
The younger son, a recent graduate of Pius XI High School and costing the dad over $36,000.00 Catholic dollars approaches his now less wealthy father and proudly announces that he’d like “his share” of what’s left of the dad’s property and businesses. Because you see the son’s been gazing at the Highlands glorious entrance for years and wonders why he doesn’t live there. The father, meanwhile, smiles to himself because he hates his property taxes and now the kid will have to kick in his share.
So the foolhardy father freely gives him half of his assets. (Had the dad been truly Jewish, he would have known that there is no “share” for the youngest; the 65th and Lloyd property belongs to the oldest when the now-less-wealthy-father permanently visits Holy Cross cemetery, with an exception for Jewish people.
After a few days, the Pius graduate youngest son collected all of his belongings – backpack, Apple iPhone, Apple Watch and Apple MacBook Air (because you know, growing up his father always called him “the apple of his eye,”), 9 pairs of overpriced sneakers and a baseball cap that no white person should ever wear backwards – but he saw a Black person do it once so he now wears it that way.
Its been said that after gaining his gain that he “set off to a distant country,” (he went downtown) and in no time flat, youngster squandered his ill-gotten inheritance by investing in paper while the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel goes digital with subscriptions falling daily. His life is now described as “dissipation,” meaning little by little what was once a large wad has dwindled down to a few bills. How he accomplished this complete “dissipation” we shall never know.
Hard times hit him and his pending college scholarships have expired so he finds himself in what is called in polite conversation, “dire need.” St. Ben’s anyone? Rescue mission? Standing on 76th and Capitol with a sign asking for money? (Thank goodness for green lights.)
So, it’s been said that “he hired himself out” which means he has now sold himself twice – sold himself out to his dad and now sold out himself leaving him with little meaning and no purpose. He gets a part time job at “Get It Now” which is ironic since he cannot get it now himself but he now sells to people who cannot get it now so they now shop at “Get It Now.” Get the picture?
And how many of us here still think that this story is about the Pius graduate. He longed to eat the bratwurst with sauerkraut that his father is known for along with sleeping in his own room along with a 42-inch flat screen complete with Netflix, HBO, Showtime and Amazon Prime.
So what does poor, youngest boy/son do? He prepares and prepares again a speech to deliver to his dad who now lives in only half of the 65th and Lloyd house with taxes now due on the whole house.
“Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you,” the son begins his apology written on a napkin at Victor’s on Van Buren Street. (Is that even still open?) “I no longer deserve to be called a graduate of Pius X High School or your son. Treat me as you would treat one of your employees with no hope of a union or decent vacation time.” This good pious Pius kid practices his pretend speech again and again while walking from 60th and North to 65th and Lloyd.
He rings the dead door bell which cannot be fixed because half the inheritance is gone so he knocks loudly until his dad answers the door. He opens his mouth ready to spew his semi-contrite, rehearsed statement when his father quickly and silently embraces and hugs him and doesn’t let go.
Before the son can try again with his fake contrition, the father yells to the older son, “Get the grill going, get some brats and don’t hold back on the sauerkraut this time. Invite his old Pius friends over and, if you have any, invite some of your friends.”
The older son (this is the second best part of the story) fires up the grill and starts playing Sirius XM on their one-Bose speaker. (Get it? Half?)
The older son becomes angry and daddy runs out to plead with him. (This dad just doesn’t know when to quit.) “Look,” the older son begins, “all these years I served you and not once did I disobey your orders. I even went to Wauwatosa East to save you money and you never once made brats for me. And if I had any friends, I would have invited them over. But when this kid returns, who swallowed up your property with prostitutes…”
Wait a minute. Where in this parable is there anything said about prostitutes? Are we now talking about the older son’s thoughts or the pious Pius graduate’s actions? “Prostitutes?”
The older son continues, “but for him you make me slaughter a pig to give us brats. And the smell will truly spill over into the Highlands where we one day hope to live!” (In half a house.)
And the whole story is now concluded and contained in one small paragraph. Our little 65th and Lloyd parable is all about children and their father – about God and us. Here’s the final paragraph about the dad’s unqualified, unlimited, entire, absolute, crazy, irrational…but loving mercy and forgiveness.
To the older son the dad says, “My son you are here with me always; everything I have is yours.” (Minus half, of course.) “But now we must celebrate and rejoice, because your brother was dead (because of downtown Milwaukee) and has come to life again (at least we can see the entrance to the Washington Highlands); he was lost and has been found.”
Nothing can be lost in God’s eyes but only God’s love rediscovered and discovered again – renewed through a new day and starting all over again, and again, and again, and again.
“Now how ‘bout those brats?”
books by Fr. Joe Jagodensky, SDS, available in paperback or Kindle at Amazon:
“Living Life’s Mysteries”
“Spiritual Wonderings and Wanderings”
A Great Gift Idea
A new book by Fr. Joe Jagodensky, SDS.
Available at Amazon.com
Paperback or Kindle is $14.95. Enjoyable reading.