This parable teaches us about non-judgemental love, about justice and mercy, humility and redemption. All three of the characters have a difficult problem to face, and the parable tells us the correct way to handle each. The prodigal son has to face his own failures and mistakes and sins without “giving up”, or ending his life. The parable shows him that the way to do this is to acknowledge his sins, ask forgiveness, and to surrender completely to God’s will for him. He did not put any conditions on his surrender at all, and that is what we must do also.
The “good” son must give up the notion that life is “fair”. We are not all given the same opportunities or talents or dispositions, and each must be grateful for what he has been given, rather than being angry that “I didn’t get a fatted calf…” The good son shows no understanding that he had those years of closeness with his Father and years of plenty while his brother was suffering in poverty, he only thinks of what he didn’t get. The parable tells us that to be happy we must be grateful for what we have, not envious or selfish.
The father in the story has to be able to “forgive and forget”. It would be so easy and natural for him to berate the prodigal son for all his failures, but instead the father’s love is openly displayed, spontaneous and genuine. He has more of a problem relating to the older son, but it is significant that he does “go out” to the 1st son, he makes a conscious effort to help the son understand his joy. Here again the father is not being judgemental of another human who is making a mistake in actions or attitudes, but is making a sincere and loving effort to reconcile with him also.
I want to be like this father in all I do, and I pray that I make the right choices in handling difficulties like he has.