Last week the children in school asked for more ‘Jesus stories’, so this week I led assemblies on the Lost Son of Luke 15. I learnt that ‘prodigal’ means wasteful, spending money or resources lavishly, recklessly, and with extravagance. The Lost Son in his far-off land lived recklessly and lost all he had. But that is not all he lost. He lost his home, his family, his friends. He lost status, support, and safety. He may even have begun to lose his mind – the children thought so – who would want to eat pig swill?
But what about the Father? He lost part of his heart, his own son.
And who is the most reckless extravagant in the story? The Son was surely wasteful, but the Father ran down the road to embrace his child, lavishly, recklessly and extravagantly offering himself and all he had back to his child. Material care and vulnerable love were spent prodigally on his reckless boy.
So I won’t be quite quick in future to call this the story of the Prodigal Son. It is the story of the Prodigal, but for me that prodigal is God my Father. It goes hand in hand with Sunday’s gospel of Mary’s extravagance with perfume, as she anoints Jesus’ feet, which propels us into Passion-tide, and the Great Story of ultimate self giving, vulnerability and sacrifice.