The Parable of the Lost Son

The God who won’t let go. Peter van Bremen SJ

Chapter 5

The parable of the prodigal son (or more accurately of the merciful father") is called evangelium in evangelio, the gospel within the gospel, the heart of the good news of Jesus. It is so simple that a child understands it and so profound that no person can fully plumb the depths of it. The story begins with the request of the younger son for his share of the inheritance. itance. He is entitled to it, but he wants it prematurely. He cannot wait until his father has died; he wants it right away. He wants now what should be given to him later. He makes his rude and self-serving claim without any respect for the feelings of the one who gives it to him. He demands an autonomy omy which ignores the existing dependence. The father respects the free will of his son even though the latter abuses that freedom. The father is a wise man who understands that this departure is inevitable no force in the world can prevent it. He exerts no pressure, no pressure to stay nor any pressure to return. With that respect he gives his son a most precious gift which will later make a return possible. ble. God never coerces. Here we see the greatness of God's power and the openness of God's love. God surely wants to gain our affection and our dedication, but God always leaves us completely free. Even in the most critical of situations, God respects our freedom.