“The Prodigal Son?” You’re Kidding

Christianity rarely gets things wrong but titling this Gospel “The Prodigal Son” is a n outright mistake. That’s like calling “I Love Lucy” a TV show about Ethel. The title ought to be “The Crazy Loving Father,” for he is the glaring and shining star of the story.

Ready for this? Here’s the list.
There is no half for the younger son. Jewish tradition states that the estate completely belongs to the elder son. Yet, Daddy Dearest freely gives away half. Boy-kid squanders (please remember that word) and ends up tending to pigs…anathema to Jewish people. (Jewish folks would have laughed at that reference or walked away appalled.) Kid-boy comes to his senses and prepares a contrite apology to Crazy-Daddy. He finds a mirror and practices it again and again. Walking back home, Loving-Daddy sees him first (an important point to remember in this story.) Silly Kid doesn’t even get a chance to spout out his apology with his Loving Father taking over the conversation. Now. The servants are off with the One-Sandwich-Short-of-A-Picnic-Dad’s credit card to Men’s Warehouse for new duds for the Kid and then Sendiks to buy a Milwaukee-size fattened calf. Senior-Kid hears rumors of this seemingly “Welcoming Home Party” and complains to Off-the-Wall-Dad. Crazy-Daddy attempts to console the eldest, “Everything I have is yours.” (Minus half.) Then, Should-Have-Kept-His-Mouth-Shut Eldest Kid talks about his brother and, and “prostitutes!” Ummmm.

(I move to the Gospel book saying the word “prostitute” three times out loud looking for the word but finally saying the word, “squandered.”)

Please remember the A, B, and C’s from that Lovingly-Dad in this story and then apply it to your life. A: never apologize, B: never blame and C: never complain. Take that home and ponder it. Finally, the unanswerable question from me is, “Where’s the Mother!?”
Culminating this comic but serious story from Jesus is the eternally faith-filled verse, “What was once lost has now been found.”

We gather here each week to remind ourselves of our own conversion or to bring about a new conversion – all lifted heavenward to our Crazy-Loving God. Conversion means not only the basic beliefs but continuing to infuse those Divine beliefs to and through how many life transitions: marriage, first born, new job, divorce, lost job, retirement, the deaths of those we love and our own. In psychology it’s called transitions; from one thing to another. For believers, joyfully, it’s called conversion; from one thing to something and to someONE even deeper.

We do this not only alone, but together. We do this by telling our stories – troubling, sad stories about family, friends, or ourselves, doubtful accounts about children after twelve years of paid-for Catholic education who no longer practice our faith. Stories that prompt laughter about ourselves, especially stories that make fun of ourselves in all our follies and foibles.

Hence, our yearly parish picnic. In the movie “Jerry Macquire,” Tom Cruise renews his marriage to Renee Zellweger by saying, “You complete me.” I love that line. As Catholics, can we say that to as many people that we can think of?

As a family in faith, we need each other. We need each other to listen to and to share our stories. To both hear and share with Christ living within us. This is our earthly inheritance. And, it ain’t only half. Today we do it while eating fattening food. But this family of faith performs this today and every day.

We need each other. It’s called the Eucharist. It beckons us to our home, this home, where God – our crazy, forgiving, One-Sandwich-Short-of-A-Picnic-Dad, and merciful Father .. always sees us first.

About Rev. Joe Jagodensky, SDS.

A Roman Catholic priest since 1980 and member of the Society of the Divine Savior (Salvatorians). www.Salvatorians.com. Serving as Administrator, St. Catherine of Alexandria, 8661 N. 76 Place, Milwaukee, WI. 53223. www.stcatherinemke.org. Six books on the Catholic church and U.S. culture are available on Amazon.com.
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