The Prodigal Son

 

“No, son! Not at my feet. Rest on my heart, which has suffered so much because of your absence, and now needs to revive feeling your warmth on my chest.”

– the father

 

205.    Jesus: « I know, do not weep. Be humble, but do not be disheartened. Disheartenment is still pride. Be humble, that is all. Cheer up, do not weep… »

John of Endor slowly calms down…

When Jesus sees that he has become calm, He says: « Come, let us go under that thicket of apple-trees and gather our companions and the women. I will speak to everybody, but I will tell you how God loves you. »

They go down, assembling the others as they proceed, and they all sit down in a circle in the shade of the apple orchard. Also Lazarus, who was speaking to the Zealot, joins the company. They are about twenty people in all.

« Listen. It is a beautiful parable that will guide you with its light in many cases. A man had two sons. The elder was a serious, affectionate, obedient worker. The younger was more intelligent than his brother who was actually somewhat dull and preferred to be guided rather than tire himself taking decisions by himself, but he was also rebellious, absent-minded, fond of luxury, pleasure loving, a squanderer and idle. Intelligence is a great gift of God. But it is a gift to be used wisely. Otherwise it is like certain medicines that, when taken in the wrong way, kill instead of curing. His father, as it was his right and duty, used to recall him to a more sensible life. But it was all in vain, the only result was that he answered back and became more obstinate in his wicked ideas.

Finally one day, after a fiercer quarrel, the younger son said: “Give me my part of the estate. So I will no longer hear your reproaches and my brother’s complaints. Let each have his own and no more about it.”

“Be careful” replied the father, “because you will soon be ruined. What will you do then? Consider that I will not be unfair to favour you and I will not take a farthing off your brother to give it to you.”

“I will not ask you for anything. You may be sure. Give me my part.”

The father had the estate and valuables assessed, and since money and jewels were worth as much as the real estate, he gave the elder brother the fields and vineyards, the herds and olive trees, and the younger one the money and jewels, which the young man changed immediately into money. And after doing that in a few days, he went to a distant country where he lived like a lord, squandering all his money on a life of debauchery, making people believe that he was the son of a king, because he was ashamed to admit that he was a countryman and thus he disowned his father. Banquets, friends, women, robes, wines, games… he led a loose life. He soon saw that his money was coming to an end and that poverty was in sight. And to make matters worse, the country experienced a severe famine, which compelled him to spend his last penny. He would have liked to go back to his father. But he was proud and decided not to. So he went to a wealthy man of the country, a friend of his in his happy days, and he begged him saying: “Take me among your servants, remembering the days when you enjoyed my wealth.” See how foolish man is! He prefers the lash of a master rather than say to his father: “Forgive me. I made a mistake!.” The young man had learned many useless things with his bright intelligence, but he did not want to learn the saying of Ecclesiasticus: “How ill-famed is he who deserts his father and how accursed of the Lord is whoever angers his mother.” He was intelligent, but not wise.

The man to whom he had applied, in exchange for the grand time he had enjoyed with the foolish young man, sent him to look after his pigs, because it was a pagan country and there were many pigs. So he was sent to pasture the herds of pigs in the farm. Filthy, in rags, stinking and starving – food in fact was scarce for all the servants and particularly for the lowest ones and he, a foreign ridiculed herdsman of pigs was considered such he saw the pigs glut themselves with acorns and sighed: “I wish I could fill my stomach with this fruit! But they are too bitter! Not even starvation can make them palatable.” And he wept remembering the sumptuous banquets when he acted the “grand seigneur” only a short while before, laughing, singing, dancing… and then he would think of the honest substantial meals at his far away home, of the portions his father used to make impartially for everybody, keeping for himself the smallest one, happy to see the healthy appetite of his sons… and he remembered the helpings his just father gave the servants and he sighed: “My father’s servants, even the lowest, have plenty bread… and I am dying here of starvation… A long meditation, a long struggle to subdue his pride…

At last the day came, when his humility and wisdom revived and he got up and said: “I will go back to my father! This pride of mine is silly, as it deprives me of my freedom. And why? Why should I suffer in my body and even more in my heart when I can be forgiven and receive comfort? I will go back to my father. That is settled. And what shall I say to him? What has matured in my heart here, in this abjection, in this filth, suffering the pangs of hunger! I will say to him: ‘Father, I have sinned against Heaven and against you, I am no longer worthy of being called your son; treat me therefore as the least of your servants, but bear me to stay under your roof. That I may see you moving about… ‘ I cannot say to him: ‘… because I love you’. He would not believe me. But my behaviour will tell him and he will understand and before dying he will bless me once again… Oh! I hope so. Because my father loves me.” And when he went back to town in the evening he gave up his job and begging along the way he went back home. And he saw his father’s fields… and the house… and his father superintending the work… he was old, emaciated by grief but always kind and good… The guilty son seeing that ruin caused by him stopped frightened… but the father, looking round, saw him and ran to meet him, because he was still far away. And when he reached him, he threw his arms round his neck and kissed him. Only the father had recognised his son in the dejected beggar and he was the only one to be moved with love.

The son, clasped in his father’s arms, with his head resting on his father’s shoulder, whispered sobbing: “Father, let me throw myself at your feet.”

“No, son! Not at my feet. Rest on my heart, which has suffered so much because of your absence, and now needs to revive feeling your warmth on my chest.”

And the son, crying louder, said: “Oh! father! I have sinned against Heaven and against you, I am no longer worthy to be called son by you. But allow me to live among your servants, under your roof, seeing you, eating your bread, serving you, and you will be the breath of my life. Every time I take a morsel of bread, every time you breathe, my heart, which is so corrupt, will change and I will become honest…”

But the father, embracing him all the time, led him towards the servants, who had gathered together watching in the distance and he said to them: “Quick, bring here the best robe, and basins of scented water, and wash him, spray him with scents, clothe him, put new sandals on his feet and a ring on his finger. Bring a fattened calf and kill it. And prepare a banquet. Because this son of mine was dead and has come back to life, he was lost and has been found. Now I want him to find once again the innocent love of a child, and my love and the celebration of the household for his return must give it to him. He must realize that he is always my dear last-born child, as he was in his childhood a long time ago, when he used to toddle beside me making me happy with his smile and his prattling.”

John of Endor’s introduction to Jesus

The Visions of Maria Valtorta

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