I heard 'The Prodigal Son' in church last Sunday! The story (a briefing for those who perchance may not know the story) is that of a man who had two sons. His younger son asked for his share of property and went away with it to explore the world. But soon he squandered all the wealth and was short of money. So he began to work as a hired help feeding pigs! He came to his senses realizing that he had forsaken his father’s love; for in his father’s house even hired men had food to spare! The story goes that he returned and asked forgiveness from his father and said he would work as a slave as he did not deserve to be called his son. His father on the other hand was overjoyed and celebrated his return. But this made the elder son angry and he complained that though he had been an obedient son, never once had his father been as extravagant on him. The father then explained that it is because of the joy of having found a son who had been lost.
On hearing the story again I was just wondering with a little boredom as to how many times since childhood would I have heard a sermon on this topic, when the priest said something that made me pay attention. He said that unless we have fallen into sin and repent and require forgiveness, how would we learn the importance of forgiving. This statement woke me from my half sleep and it suddenly brought into my mind the story of the book (play) 'Lady Windmere's fan' by Oscar Wilde. I had liked it because of a similar message it had held. A woman falls into sin (due to some miscommunication) and loses a lot in life because of that and realizes her blunder.
Later she finds out about her grown up daughter who happens to be in the same position 'of being about to fall into the pit' and rescues her from making the same mistake as her. And then is shared a profound wisdom by the author! I remember the words only vaguely, but he meant, 'that those who have fallen and are considered ‘low’ in society are often better people (than the good people of society who have never committed a serious mistake) because they know where the pits are and are so much wiser because of it and are also in a position to warn and prevent 'the good people' from committing the same mistakes. Their example and experience is what guides the 'good' to remain 'good'....
The basic message of ‘the prodigal son' was skipped in my mind and new messages unfolded! It is true that I have heard 'the prodigal son' around a thousand times since childhood; yet I realized another aspect of its meaning in church today. Wasn't the prodigal son repentant, meek and humble in the end when he returns to his father? And wasn't the son who never ever sinned (never left his father or disobeyed him) arrogant, unforgiving, jealous and too proud of being 'good'!
No doubt, as the priest said, "God sometimes allows us to go away from him"....... so we can come back as better people than what we were as obedient sons!