Re-reading: The Prodigal Son

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I remember learning about the parable of the prodigal son.  I learned from teachers’ and family’s and friends’ interpretation that I should be compassionate and avoid jealous. I understand the story’s parallels—prodigal son=sinful humans; father=God…and we are forever basked in God’s forgiveness and welcomed into an everlasting life.

I haven’t thought much about this parable in the last ten years.  I don’t have much use for this eschatological leaning; am too eager to be caught up in earthly life to be concerned with my odds at getting into heaven.

I’ve been reading Scott Korb and Peter Bebergal’sThe Faith Between: A Jew & a Catholic Search for the Meaning of God. It’s really a beautiful reflection by two men about their faith lives—sort of a dual spiritual autobiography. Last night, the Catholic of the two (Scott Korb) was reflecting on the parable of the prodigal son and shed new light onto this story for me:

“Yet what if the sons are…both blind to the only real inheritance offered in the parable—a wordly one?  Feeling the world as we’ve never felt it before” (168). He goes on to wonder what happens if we think of the parable as teaching us to embrace the world in all its holiness and divinity—as our inheritance.  We are sinful when we ignore that fact.

This I can get behind, get excited about, return to thinking more about the parable of the prodigal son.  When Heaven is not the entire story, when creativity is employed to re-imagine entrenched stories, I find ways to embrace Catholic thinking and loving.

Kate Dugan is a 29-year-old Catholic living outside Shelton, Washington.  She is the co-editor of From the Pews in the Back: Young Women & Catholicism.

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