When we read Jesus' Parable of the prodigal son we may be reading it for the hundredth time and yet something is new, we notice another little detail that applies to life right now, or we may say to ourselves that we know the story. This time look closely at the father's joy. We notice it first when the father runs to the son.
Joy causes the father to leave his time honored tradition of never showing the soles of his feet or shoes soles in public. His joy causes him not to care about this as he runs. When the child returns to the parent, who thought the child might have been lost for all time, there is gratitude which yields great joy. The father's joy is expressed to the older brother too when the father says, "All that is mine is yours." Generous and joyful father.
As I live nearby my parents home and often see my brother or sister come home with their families I notice my parent's joy. It's deep, causes the biggest smiles, and their arms open wide to embrace bringing the child dearly near. Within my father I notice that joy fills him up and it lasts a long time, even after my siblings are gone. Lingering joy is caused by the initial depth of my father and mother's love for us. It's great to witness.
And when my family gathers I am not the 'elder brother' type because I am usually the one cooking the fatted calf and all the trimmings. Good food. I feel happy to be an integral part of our celebration of home-comings-- my parents joy is also my joy. But I confess that it is my father's joy that impresses me the most because he is a serious thinker and mother is bouncy joyful a lot of the time.
Seeing my father's joy always reminds me how much joy there is in heaven when one sinner repents, and heaven's joy when a humble saint enters there coming Home, and God's joy each time we talk with Him for our words reach His big old ears because of Christ on the Cross. My folks have quiet joy when they hold new great grand babies. The prodigal's father had loud exuberant joy when his son returned. To return is God's giving time of joy.
11 Then Jesus said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them. 13 A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. 14 When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. 16 He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. 17 But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! 18 I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.”’ 20 So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. 21 Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; 24 for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate. 25 “Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. 27 He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.’ 28 Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’ 31 Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’” Luke 15:11-32