"‘“…your brother was dead and has come to life again….”’”
Many of the parables found only in the Gospel account of St. Luke are noted for demonstrating the virtues of mercy and compassion. Most noteworthy among these is the parable we hear in today’s Gospel passage: the Parable of the Prodigal Son. An icon or painting of the father embracing the returning son is often on view in confessionals or, during Lent, in vestibules, so closely identified is this parable with the virtues of mercy and compassion.
We usually consider the word “prodigal” to mean “wasteful”. In addition to this primary meaning, however, the word “prodigal” has another meaning: “lavish”. The words “wasteful” and “lavish” have something in common, of course, but we think of “wasteful” as being inherently negative, while being “lavish” can sometimes be positive.
The prodigal son has a prodigal father. This father in the parable is an icon of God the Father. The prodigal son’s father spares no expense is rejoicing over his son’s return. In this he symbolizes the joy of God the Father in one of his wayward children turning away from sin and back towards Him. The prodigal father extends his mercy, however, not only to those who turn back from a sinful life, but also to those—like the older brother—who themselves refuse to show mercy.