Parables of Jesus
[The Lord Jesus] He said again: A man had two sons. The youngest of them said to his father: "Father, give me the share of the goods that belongs to me". And the father divided the goods among them. A few days later the younger son, having gathered everything, went to a distant country and there he dissipated his substances by living dissolutely. But when he had spent everything, a serious famine occurred in that country and he began to be in need. Then he went to stand with one of the inhabitants of that country, who sent him into his fields to graze the pigs. And he wanted to fill his belly with the carobs that the pigs ate, but no one gave him anything. Then, coming back to himself, he said: "How many wage-laborers of my father have bread in abundance, but I die of hunger! I will rise and go to my father, and I will say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you, I am no longer worthy of being called your son, treat me like one of your hired workers. "He therefore arose and went to his father. But while he was still far away, his father saw him and felt sorry for him; ran, threw himself around his neck and kissed him. And the son said to him: "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you and I am no longer worthy to be called your son." But the father said to his servants: "Bring the most beautiful garment here and put it on, put a ring on your finger and sandals on your feet. Bring the fatted calf out and kill him; eat and rejoice, because this my son was dead and returned in life, he was lost and was found ". And they started having a big party".
The oldest son was in the fields. On his return, when he was close home, he heard the music and the dances; I call a servant and asked him what all this was. The servant answered him, "Your brother has returned and your father has had the fat calf killed, because he has got him back safe. He was indignant, and didn't want to enter. His father went out and tried to convince him. But he replied to his father: Behold, I have served you for many years and I have never disobeyed your command, and you did not give me a calf to party with my friends. But now that this son of yours has returned, he has devoured your belongings with prostitutes, you have killed the fat calf for him. The father answered him: Son, you are always with me and all that is mine and is yours; but it was necessary to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours died and came back to life, he was lost and was found.
This parable is undoubtedly the most beautiful and touching of all the parables of Scripture. With a wonderful simplicity the fall of a Son in guilt is described, and the miserable state to which he is reduced, the repentance that follows, the return to the paternal home, and the goodness with which the father, oblivious to every offense received, welcomes him. The figure of the father represents God, the oldest of the sons depict the Jews, or generally the just souls, who have not broken the covenant with God, the youngest, of children depicting the pagans, or sinners.
The youngest of the children asks the Father, give me the part of the heritage that belongs to me. In the division of the paternal inheritance, the eldest son had the right to double the others, and since we are dealing here with only two children, the part which was left to the younger son was one third. He does not want to wait for his father's death, but demands that he be given what is due to him immediately. The Father gave him what he asked, and then put it all together, that is, he gathered all the money, he went to the far country, to be able to live at his pleasure without being seen by his father. Here is the attitude of the sinner who, not wanting to carry the tender yoke of God, does away with him, and abuses the gifts and benefits received by adding sins to sins, and immersed in carnal pleasures he does not think of the future, and when the famine arrived, he began to lack the necessary. Abandoning his father's house, this son hoped to find happiness, but soon he saw himself surrounded by extreme misery. In fact the joys of the sinner are short, and no created good is enough to satisfy the human soul. Then he went into total dependence on one of the citizens. The unfortunate man, fallen into the depths of poverty, wanted to recover from himself without turning to his father. The pigs were sent to graze, the pigs were considered unclean animals for the Jews, and being put to make them the guardian was the greatest humiliation to which a son of a Jewish family could be subjected.
The cruel master, to whom he subjects this unhappy young man, is the devil: the shameful ministry, which is entrusted to him, means the profound degradation of the soul enslaved to his lowest passions: the most vile food, which cannot satisfy his pleasures and the satisfactions of brutal appetites, which cannot fill a heart.
Then when he returned to himself, he turned his gaze to the comfort of his father's house and to his present misery, and feeling himself as if from a sleep, he felt the desire to return to his father. Seeing the horror of the abyss, in which he had fallen, the sinner thinks back to the goodness of his father, moves with the hope of being forgiven, and decided to get out of the slavery of the devil and go and throw himself at his father's feet, confessing the his own fault, and imploring his mercy. I will say to him: I have sinned against heaven, that is against God, and against you by breaking your commands and taking away from your power. I am no longer worthy of being called your son. He humbles himself profoundly, recognizing himself as undeserving of his father's affection, and therefore willingly submits to the condition of a servant, and asks for the humiliation and fatigue of this state as proof of his sincere repentance.
He set out, that is, he immediately executes the decision made. The father, who every day had to look at the horizon, waiting for his coming, saw him, and moved to pity seeing the state of dejection in which he had fallen, ran to meet him, and instead of scolding him, kissed him. The sinner who turns to God and takes a step back to him, God, observing him with an eye of mercy, goes to meet him, and adopts the most tender demonstrations of love. The son humbly confesses his sin; but in the presence of goodness, with which his father had welcomed him, he thought he was wronging him by asking him to receive him as a servant.
The father, in order to make everyone aware of forgiveness, through some symbolic actions shows that he returns to his son all his ancient rights. The most precious garment, or stole, was a broad garment, which descended to the feet and was carried by the great characters. The seal ring, a symbol of special honor. Footwear, as agreed to a free man. The fat calf, which we wanted to keep for special occasions. The ring indicates the marriage, which through sanctifying grace the soul comes to contract with God. Because this son was dead, and he came back to life. He mentions the reason, so we must celebrate.
The eldest son who returned from the fields, heard concerts and dances. And he asked what was the reason for so much celebration, knowing that the celebrations of the brother who had returned, became angry. This part of the parable, however, seems to be directed in a special way against the Pharisees, who were scandalized by the goodness and condescension of Jesus towards publicans and sinners; and also against the Jews, who saw badly the Gentiles also called to the kingdom of God. The eldest son tries to justify his anger, making a parallel between his conduct and that of his brother, and between the different way, with which his father behaved with two of his sons. Full of anger, not even his brother calls him. The father does not get angry, nor does he scold this son for not exasperating him more; but he explains to him why we should celebrate for the return of his brother and not for him. You have never turned away from me, and all I have is yours. The eldest son had not wanted to call his brother the prodigal, but the father gave him this name, so that the major would understand well, that if in him every sense of humanity is not extinguished, he too should rejoice and have a short party for the return of the brother who had died and was raised.
What the two brothers have in common is that neither of them can conceive as a child. Each of the two envies the other, thinking that, all things considered, the other "is having a great time": the older envy of the minor the experience of pleasure; the younger envies the older the bread in abundance. Both of them turn to the parent calling him "father", but nobody understands what being a son is.
The younger son, at the end of the parable is in a better situation than the initial one (because he understood that being a son is a dignity always received by grace): his repentance, the one who moves him inwardly and saves him, is imperfect, because he does not return home for the sake of his father or because he has discovered the value of son ship, he is gripped by hunger. It is a beginning, and it is probable that, as in Mt 21, a few days after returning home and the party, the father returned to tell his son "go to work on the vineyard". But at the end of the parable we do not yet know how long it will take the younger son to understand, we can only imagine with reasonable hope that the road has begun, and that soon (or later) he will understand.
The same can be said of the older son, his behavior on the return of his brother is animated by rancor and resentment: and for him too the story leaves the perspective open. There is his outburst and there is the loving reply from his father and that's it. Will you understand, the eldest son? Has he discovered that his father's son is his brother? Will you have realized that living as a brothel customer means burning substances for a fire that doesn't heat up? Here, too, we are given nothing but hope.
In these two brothers we can find the true implications of the double religiosity of every believer. The true faith that we have always been called to write is the struggle of these two diseases, of sin and envy.