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The Prodigal Son Altered to focus upon how problematic is "Forgiveness," "Repentance" in relation to the present Culture

Added: Sunday, July 3rd 2022 at 6:17am by tjdonegan


Note: The parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) is at the bottom of the page, but we have altered the parable so as to address what we think is neglected by the modern Church (we do not address why the Church has come to neglect - sin, and discussions of sin - but we do note that to any casual, but thoughtful observer, that the Church decidedly avoids, or seems to want to avoid, discussions of sinfulness...) and which tacitly promotes things inimical to the individual sinner, to the Church and to society. We ask those that are familiar with the parable of Prodigal Son to note that the Father in the parable is not changed; it is the returning son who has changed! We think it common today that this point is given little, or no significance vis-à-vis the modern Church's "marketing" an attenuated1 Jesus Christ... The parable teaches other-lessons-as-well2 which are generally given short-shrift today... We do not expect to exhaust this topic - such would require a book, and perhaps a more gifted individual than this writer; we do wish to touch upon a few points whose neglect we have observed in frustration...

            1 Attenuated, because Jesus' words and deeds had - and do have - many sharp, cutting edges (i.e., moral edges, edges which indicate what an individual must do, and must avoid doing) which many people of particular sensitivities may find off-putting or down right offensive. It seems that the modern Church thinks de-emphasizing certain aspects of the Lord, will make Him more attractive to the modern...? We think this a mistake which - in part - explains the general drift away from specifically Catholicism (the Church Jesus Christ established), but also from other Christian denominations, to varying degrees, as well...

                2 Many principles/concepts which those listeners to Jesus' utterances would not need explained because they were principles/concepts possessing a utility for surviving; in a culture such as ours, the former utility of such principles/concepts has been nearly eliminated by technological advance and its accompanying material abundances...

            Our altered Prodigal Son: “A man had two sons; the younger son one day said: “Father, give me my share3 of the estate, so that I may be about my life!” His father said, in reply: “Son it a cruel world out there and you are not ready to go it alone…” The son cut-his-father-off4 in mid-sentence and demanded: “Am I to receive my share of the estate or not?” Whereupon his father gave his son what he had asked. A few days passed, and the younger son took his possessions and made off for another land to “make his way.” As it turned out this son too – as the son of Jesus’ parable - squandered his fortune andthe  land in which he located fell upon hard times. The son managed to acquire a job which left him scrapping for food to eat, and shelter from the weather – which was turning cold. This son was miserable in the life he had chosen. This son spoke to any number of people that his activities (work, and the seeking of food, and shelter) placed him in proximity, and they were sympathetic/empathetic5 to his tale-of woe, and as he reflected upon his father, he began to resent that his father had given him his share of the estate, and angered that his father had not more forcefully attempted to talk him out of going his own way. Over a number of days this youngest son worked himself into a rage at his father - the people with which he discussed his ill fortune encouraged his passion - and thus he decided to return to his father's house to repay his father for his ill fate. He thenjourney's home, tohis father’s estate; this son is possessed with the intention of delivering a sound beating of his old-man. As he approaches his father’s estate, his father sees him across the field and rushes out to greet his returning son (Of course his father forgives his son, but he cannot help his son, if he is dead to his son; as was the case as his son left his father's home...). As this father nears his approaching son, the son - in indignation - unleashes a string of searing, personally denigrating, expletives against his father. The son then grabs his father and begins to beat his old-man. The sound of the son's stentorian denunciation of his father was heard by the eldest son who – seeing what is taking place - rushes to pull his brother off of his father. As the oldest son manages to restrain his brother, the older brother and father try to calm the younger son, but he is fixed in his hatred towards his father. Neither thefather, nor theolder brother can dissuade this prodigal son from his hatred for his father; neither can this son acknowledge that his fate was of his own choosing. Moreover, no amount of forgiveness, and understanding from his father, alters this son’s view of his father, and that view is an unrelenting hatred and contempt...

Let us note the abject disrespect the son delivers his father, asking for his inheritance from his living father; the Jews would have been conscious that inheritance passes at death, thus it seems that Jesus is conveying that the son considers his father dead or irrelevant.

To we moderns, interrupting our father's is likely quite common, but to ancient Jews, it would have been tantamount to physically pushing his father around...



Today, we people encourage others to nurture resentments; in general we neither understand nor desire moral consciences (a moral consciences wills to strive to become what they ought to be i.e., a saints). A moral conscience, and moral action, has been replaced with sentiment and sentimental dispositions (such a disposition would consider "good" that which agrees with them - and their sensibilities - and consider evil/bad that which disagrees with them; empathy is not universally moral, or exemplary of right conduct; only sentiments which accord with the moral law are good).


So the question's are:


            1.) “How does the father’s forgiveness, empathy, love and understanding - for his wayward son - alter this wayward son’s view of himself, or of his father?” We suggest that the father may be forgiving, in that he does not desire his son to suffer (crawl over broken glass) - but, that Jesus teaching forgiveness requires an acknowledgment of wrongdoing by the son (i.e., sinner), viz: : "If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he wrongs you seven times in one day and returns to you seven times saying, 'I am sorry,' you should forgive him." (Luke 17: 3-4)


            2.) "How is this son improved by "unconditional" forgiveness, empathy, love and understanding?" We suggest that such things do not help the son! We suggest that those in the modern Church which purvey God's Love - as unconditional6 - are spreading heresy; heresy whose effect is to separate the sinner from the truth of their actions, and the truth of what . The effect of blindness to sin, may render such sins unforgivable, for they are not acknowledged!

             6 "Love" is a moral principle wherein one seeks "the good of the beloved," the "good" sought - logically - must accord with the Will of God, from whence all superlative qualities/virtues (e.g., justice, good, truth, humility, fortitude, gratitude, forgiveness, charity, prudent, faithful, etc.) derive - differing only in modality - thus, none of those virtues may be - in their perfection (i.e., in God) be in contradiction to any of the others; thus, God's "love" must be "just,' must be "truthful," must be conditioned!


            3.) "What can the father do to alter his son’s view of himself, and his view of the his father?” We suggest the father must wait for life to alter his son's view, since the son is closed to his father. We further suggest that had the son encountered people/associates ordered with moral-consciences and equipped with "moral-shoulders" (people that would make the son take responsibility for his choices/actions; people which would rebuke him for attempting to scapegoat his father...) - rather than sympathetic/emotional consciences (and their sympathetic shoulders which are made available for this son; shoulder's upon which he was encouraged to cry, shoulder's which tacitly affirm the son's wrong-headedness...), that the prodigal son may have returned home, as the son does in Jesus parable i.e., understanding that hehadsinned against his father, and against God! Such a changed disposition is what Jesus Christ indicates is necessary for those worthy of the Kingdom of Heaven.


            We reiterate - and note - that the Father - in this altered parable - has been characterized by his son, and thus, the son is not open to any entreaty the Father may make; this suggests that the Father can do nothing to alter his son’s views, the son's views are not rational. And, what may be the fate of this son, if he continues in his obduracy (impenitent wickedness)? We suggest that if the son holds to these views (unchanged), that perdition (i.e., Hell) awaits (Note: the Father is God, and the son is us; at least any of us which refuse the truth about ourselves, because the truth may be ugly…) because ultimately the son hates the truth i.e., the correct understanding of his relation with his Father… How may the obdurate be helped to change their view? Answer: (See Matthew 18: 15-17 below) with a few caveats: 1.) Jesus assumes/presupposes those whom try to effect a change in the sinner - whether it be "one, or two others, as witnesses, or the Church," - are objective i.e., just, they cannot be partial... 2.) Should the sinner refuse the Church, he is to be treated as a "gentile" i.e., avoided/ostracized (this is the basis of excommunication). 3.) This separation/ostracism is only so as to bring him/her to reflect upon the matter which caused the separation, and through reflection - and the desire to be welcomed again amongst the family/community/Church - they come to know the truth ('And you will know the truth and the truth shall set you free...'), which will free them of their burden of sin... 4.) Many other points could be discussed regarding the parable Jesus related, and our alteration, but - at this time - we limit ourselves to these...


Thomas J. Donegan





The Prodigal Son

11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them. 13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. 17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinnedagainstheaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. 21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate. 25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your fatherhaskilled the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ 28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’ 31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’” Luke 15: 11-32

Matthew 18: 15-17


15"If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. 16But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, sothat'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.' 17If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church; treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.



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