There are two young men in this story. One is the son who set out for the good life, came to ruin, returned home, and was received without any request for repentance or that he repay the money he had spent, part of which was to take care of his father in his old age.
The other son is one of those self righteous people who do all the right things but for the wrong reasons. He was looking for the inheritance too, and he felt he had a right to be angry with his brother who had squandered his share. It meant that the eldest son would have to pay for the support of the old man all by himself.
The older son berates his father for his goodness, thus breaking the fourth commandment, which is to honor father and mother. Thus, both sons fail. The father embraces and forgives his wayward son without a word of remonstrance and lovingly remonstrates with the one who was well behaved but bitter and self righteous. We may suspect that the older son was seeking his own gain by behaving properly in order to guarantee for himself the full inheritance. To remonstrate with self-righteous people is quite a job. The father tries to explain: "My son was lost and is found; we have to rejoice."
The point to emphasize here is that this father, instead of worrying about his honor, which was very important in that culture, throws it away and does not act as the typical patriarchal father. Instead, he acts rather as a mother and forgives both sons. His chief concern is that they live together in peace and harmony.
The Gospel precept, "To love one another as I have loved you!" is the program that Thérèse tried to carry out on a day-to-day basis. One wonders whether this is not the best program to propose to people--since anybody can do it, because everybody has an everyday life. The Kingdom of God is in everyday life and in what we do with it. We have to keep trusting in God when physical, mental, and emotional difficulties arise for us and those we love. These are occasions to open us to deeper self-knowledge and self surrender to God. We may have to struggle with what is most difficult for those sincerely seeking God--the inability to overcome our faults or sins.
As we saw in the Parable of the Leaven, the Kingdom of God is present in the midst of vast corruption. Perhaps what we have to do is to accept the humiliation of not being as good as we would like and to do the best we can, trusting audaciously in the Father's goodness and in the power of divine love to heal the wounds of a lifetime. As Thérèse knew, the experience of divine love is the ultimate healing. No matter what our difficulties are, Thérèse urges us to continue to show love, to build instead of tearing down, and to trust God with boundless confidence. She writes:
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