If ever a biblical story has been analysed to death, surely it is that of the prodigal son. Frankly, I think it to be quite straight forward.
This unfortunate man lucked out with neither of his sons. He loved them but they were, by any standard, both losers. The first was wild and unreliable. The second was rigid and just plain nasty. Neither of them appreciated their father’s love. Both tried to exploit him. And he knew that they were exploiting him.
This is not a story of a prodigal son but rather of a super-indulgent father. Note that he runs out to greet the first son and cuts off his phoney speech with a warm hug. Note too that he is incredibly patient with the self-righteous, mean spirited second son.
One thing this story is not is a model for family life. This story has one message and that is that God loves us so much that by our standards, He is quite over the top.
Once upon a time there were two teenagers whose parents went away for the weekend. As more than a few teenagers do, they decided to have a party.
You know the rest!
A couple of hundred people showed up. They drank the family dry, trashed the house, tore up the garden, burned down the garage, smashed a few windows in neighbouring homes, rioted when the police came and even threw beer cans on the rectory lawn a block away.
When the parents came home to find the army patrolling their street, they said to their children, "You shouldn’t have done that!" The children hung their heads and made all sorts of excuses including blaming their mother and father for taking the weekend off.
But the parents loved their kids so much that they were not angry with them! YEAH RIGHT!
Ridiculous and irrational of course ...but that is the way God loves us!
The gospel is not suggesting that this is the manner and extent to which we are to love each other or more specifically, you are to love your children.
Jesus tells us to try to love one another AS He loves us but that does not mean AS MUCH as He loves us. That is beyond us.
If you find this illustration of Divine love to be exaggerated ...hard to believe, then meditate before your crucifix or make The Stations of the Cross ...that should convince you.