How is it possible for the father/parent to forgive the prodigal son/child?
To be able to accomplish this form of love and generosity, it seems to me that the father has a deep knowledge of his own humanity and sinfulness — and the he himself must have been forgiven somewhere along the way.
For most of us, reading the Gospel story of the Prodigal Son, we can understand how the faithful son feels — we wonder how the father could be so lavish in his love — and we think how lucky the ungrateful son was.
In a world where centuries old grievances still cause war – where name calling is more prevalent than praise — where we no one accepts blame or fault — the challenge to forgive seems unreal and impossible. We hold up the father as an ideal — rather than a model we can actually emulate.
To forgive like the father — we have to reach the point of feeling — I am tired of keeping score, I do not care who wins …. let’s just move on and be happy. I know this doesn’t make sense — but for the sake of peace, I just do not want to argue, fuss, or GET EVEN.
To forgive like the father one has to realize that all is gift — that I have nothing, I own nothing — that I deserve. So, if I kill the fatted calf, if I dress my ungrateful son in fine clothes and give him a few of my rings — so what — I am taking nothing out of this world anyway — so what does it matter?!
To forgive like the father, one has to have hope that this will do the son some good — and that just maybe, just maybe — he will pay it forward and do good for someone else.
We know the parable of one who was forgiven much demanded much from those who owed him — he was an ungrateful servant. He wanted to throw those who owed him into prison, right after he had been forgiven —- that is always a possibility.
As one with no children or grandchildren — but as one who is 69 — I do grow weary of family feuds — tribal rivalries — name calling — that I KNOW WILL LEAD TO NO BENEFIT. So, why not try and give forgiveness a chance — wipe the slate clean and start over.
Forgiveness does not mean I will forget the pain or the ingratitude or the hurt.
Forgiveness does not mean the other was ok in doing what s/he did.
Forgiveness does not mean I have to roll over and get kicked upside the head again.
Forgiveness does mean — I can’t change the past — she/he cannot change the past — but, we can do better in the future.
Maybe when we grow tired — when we are weary — we will stop living with the desire to get even — maybe as we face our own sinfulness and our own mortality — maybe when we see the uselessness and IMPOSSIBILITY of trying to get even, we will begin to forgive — to let go — to go free — to free.
At times, at times — but not always — justice will demand restitution — justice will demand PUNISHMENT — but, sometimes the greater good — the real justice is the offer of mercy —- unmerited love …. which is forgiveness.