Oy veh! Just who are all these peculiar characters, anyway??
You’ve got this Son who says to the Father, “Give to me the equal of all that is yours, the equal part your very essence, your ousia,” as they say in Greek. “Make me one in being with you Father, ” says the Son. Nor does this Father object – and the next thing you know the Son up and leaves home, trailing, as it were, streams of this Father’s gifts and glory. And the Son goes to the Far-off Land. And there, we hear, the Son dispenses liberally, extravagantly all this glorious wealth, this ousia of the Father. And as is duly noted, this Son of the Father commences to give his life over to prostitutes and other sordid sinners – going so far as to sit down at table to eat and drink with them – which as everyone knows no self-respecting person in his or her own right and just mind would ever do.
The Son. Squandering the gifts of the Father upon those not worthy to be under the roof of the Father’s house. The Son, acting for all the world as if born in a barn rather than having been begotten in the splendor of the Father’s house. The Son, acting as one who had been attended at birth not by the glowingly-clean servants of his Father’s house but attended at birth, rather, by . . . well, what shall we say? – by a band of thieving shepherds dressed in stinking rags?
The Son. Not keeping in his grasp the things of the Father, but prodigally emptying himself of all the power and privilege rightly his, and becoming instead utterly degraded – like some female slave willingly washing the feet of a bunch of no-goods who would never, ever be able to give him anything in return – the Son of the Father, becoming some foot-washing slave treated in return not even as well as pigs in a poke. Yes, the Son, exchanging all the glory that was his for all the filth of the world – becoming like a cheap sinner in the company of cheap drunks and whores – The Son, becoming as god-forsaken – as – as what? Well, as accursed and god-forsaken as one was said to be if hung from a tree like a common thief. The Son, so poor that even his clothing was taken from him – no longer drinking wine, but so thirsty that even a sponge of sour vinegar began to look good.
And so in the utter-most shame conceivable, the Son departs this Far-off Land to return to the Father’s house, this Son who has exchanged the glory that was his for the humiliation his companions rightly deserved, the Son having given away his own wealth to those who did not deserve it, and they, the undeserving, at the expense of the Son, becoming clothed like the Son of the Father, while the Son took on the filthy likeness of the most shameful in his company. Quite the happy exchange for the unclean ones.
And then there’s the Father, the Father who has been anxiously waiting for the return of the Son. And please note – wealthy and powerful fathers are not supposed to get anxious. But this Father, anxiously awaits the Son, and upon the Son’s return home from this Far-off Land – well, the Father scraps all manly dignity and demeanor and like a woman, kicks off his shoes and runs to meet the Son, the Son – who bears on his body the marks of every sin known to the Far-off Land – and then some. And the Father takes this Son into his arms, and the Father utterly disregards the rotten stench of the Far-off Land that the Son has brought with him, and instead calls for his servants to come swiftly, as if on wings, and to put on the Son the most heavenly robes ever created. The Father desires with all his heart to honor (to HONOR??), yes, to honor this Son, once dead but now alive. And to honor the Son, the Father gives to the Son the Father’s own ring, the ring the Father has used to put his seal upon his every command. And the Father proclaims a feast of very finest food and drink. It seems all the Father can think about is his own joy – disregarding everything else conceivable.
Crazy Father. Where’s the justice in all of this? Isn’t justice supposed to be an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth? Isn’t justice all about fairness? About the good being rewarded and the bad being punished? Apparently the Father’s notion of justice doesn’t conform to justice under the law, apparently the Father’s notion of justice is . . . is quite unbelievable, wouldn’t you say?
And so the Father’s unjust will is carried out – and the Father’s house is filled with singing and dancing and eating and drinking – quite the party. And of course the Son has sent out party invitations to all his friends from the Far-off Land. There they all are – the prostitutes, male and female, and the sinners the Son used to eat with, the stinking pig-farmers, the thieves, the murderous, the treacherous, the conniving, the lying – the Son, you see, was, after all, used to hanging out with anybody and everybody. And at the party even those whose feet the Son had washed – those who, when things for the Son had been at their worst, pretended they didn’t even know him. Seems the Son, after returning home is not about to turn his back on any of the motley crew on whom he had so indiscriminately squandered the Father’s gifts – and who of course had done nothing worthwhile with them – and instead of disregarding these wastrels or putting them to work as slaves – the Son . . . well, the Son seems to be just like crazy Dad, a chip off the prodigal old block.
Of course, when the dutiful elder Son – and his Sisters and Other Siblings who have all been hard at work in the fields – when the dutiful ones come home, when they get a look at this ugly bunch partying down with the Father, and the Son, and when they listen to what the Spirited Singer is singing – well, they’re none too pleased. “You gonna let just anybody and everybody into your house?” they question. “This isn’t fair!” they protest. But the Father says, “Hey. You get to come into the party too. Everything that’s mine is yours as well. Get over yourselves.” At which the Elder Brother, on behalf of all the dutiful, replies, “Listen, I would rather die than be seen with that bunch of morally bankrupt losers.” And the Father, knowing how it’s all going to turn out, the Father grins and says, “See you at the party – sooner than you think.”
Oy veh! Just who are all these peculiar characters, anyway?
Oh, and not so by-the-way – you’re all on the guest list for the feast. No RSVP necessary . . . . No, that’s not right. Actually, you’re already at the party right now. So, come, eat and drink.