The cast of characters: a dad who loved his sons and wanted the very best for them; a selfish and rebellious son who wanted everything that life had to offer and whose center of life was himself; and a son who worked hard to get ahead but who felt entitled to more than he had been given.
Jesus tells of these two guys whose first thought was of themselves. They demanded that their dad give them their inheritance now. One wanted to build his empire, establish his family, make his name while still young enough to do so. The other saw the money, the potential of a good time, and the fact that he wanted what he wanted now. He took the money and ran.
Neither considered their dad in the equation. The story gives no indication that the dad was old, or retired, or finished with his life's work, or that he was not providing for his sons. They demanded what would be their inheritance in the future NOW. Dad could live at home, he could make himself useful, he deserved to be stripped of his accomplishments, his pride and his dignity. After all, the younger generation knew better and wanted more. So much for the traditions of the ancestors.
The dad loved his sons and did the best for them and by them. Hurt as he might have been at being "forced" to relinquish his legacy, he did so because of that love. He spent his time encouraging and supporting one son, and longing for the other son to return home. He did so because he loved both - the good and the bad.
When the prodigal son realized the mistakes of his life and decides to come home - not to demand reinstatement (too late for that) - but to ask for mercy and a job as a servant, the dad rejoices and welcomes him home as a son. When the elder brother show his anger and hostility toward his brother and his resentment at dad's compassion and love, he pouts and negates the love he has been given all this time by his dad. And in all of this, throughout the story, the dad never wavered in his love for both. Even though he was sinned against, his love for the boys never diminished and his compassion was the hallmark of that love.
As he says - we must celebrate because this son was lost and is now found, he was dead and now he lives. Actually the same applies to both sons - lost and dead in different ways - but lost and dead nonetheless.
What is the lesson? No matter who we are, how we live our lives and what our attitude, we have a loving father who supports and encourages us and who will run to meet us when we decide to return home from our wildness and sin. It is the story of the LOVING FATHER, and it is a story about us. It is also the story found in this Sunday's Lenten gospel.