Commentary on the Gospel of

Luis Rodriguez, S.J. - Creighton University's Jesuit Community



The parable’s familiar title –The Prodigal Son– is truly a misnomer. It is not about the wayward son nor about the sulking brother, but about the Prodigal Father, prodigal in love. The wayward son’s predicament can be referred to as the “prodigal son syndrome,” which in our own lives can take place at different levels. In a cruder form it consists in fleeing God, in order to seek sinful satisfactions that we would not dare to seek in God’s presence -yet are we not always in God’s presence? A more refined form of that syndrome consists rather in fleeing intimacy with God, in order to seek fulfillment in attachments that, without being necessarily sinful, would not fit in a context of friendship with God. Psalm 55 puts in God’s lips a painful complaint:


If an enemy had hurt me, I could have borne it...
But you, my other self, my companion and close friend, whose comradeship I enjoyed...


Does it not sound like Julius Caesar’s: you too, Brutus, my son?


A still different mode of flight is recognizable in the elder son’s attitude. He had fled from his father’s heart; they were not on the same page. He had done: slaved, obeyed... we could almost hear his heels click at his father’s commands. But he had lost intimacy with his father and had become a stranger in his own home. To celebrate, he would choose to eat a kid with his friends, not with his father. Closeness is a diverse concept: at the physical level it is a relationship of mutuality; at the affective level, though, it can be a one-sided affective closeness, while the other side ignores it or pretends not to notice (think of poor Charlie Brown and the little red-hair girl he likes: one-sided affective closeness). At the spiritual level it can also become one-sided: God is always near, while we can choose to remain distant. Even St. Augustine admitted to God: You were with me, but I was not with you.


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