A woman was critically ill with a brain tumor. Her doctor told her after all the tests were finished that only one thing could save her: a brain transplant! “But,” he warned, “It's experimental and very costly.” The woman, herself quite wealthy, replied, “Money is no problem! Can you get me a brain?” “Actually,” the doctor answered, “there are three brains presently available. The first is from a university professor, and will cost you $20,000. The second, is from a rocket scientist, and will cost you $50,000. The third brain is from a Washington, D.C. politician and will cost you $100,000.” “Why so much for the politician's brain?” the woman questioned. “Because,” said the doctor, “it's seldom been used!”
A couple of brain transplants might be just what's needed for the two sons in today's Gospel. A pair of hearts might help as well. The younger son is an unwelcome blend of arrogance and ignorance. Imagine, demanding a fortune he hasn't earned and then squandering it all within a very short time. The older son isn't much better: a mean-spirited accountant-type who knows the rest of the fortune is his, but resents the homecoming party his brother is getting from dad. Neither son is very likeable. Yet their father loves them both deeply. Just why, is a mystery. What can this father see in his two sons?
I suspect what he sees deep down in them is a bit of himself, a tiny seed of goodness that will sprout if given enough care. That is what God is like with us. God sees small pockets of goodness waiting to grow in each of us, because we are created in the very image of our All-Loving God. God knows we've got good genes, a divine DNA, so to speak. Because of this, there's no way God will give up on us even when we get into trouble and lose our way. God knows how we are made because God makes us. God knows how arrogant, ignorant and resentful we too can be at times. God knows how difficult it is and how long it can take us to learn life's lessons. God knows this about us just as we know it about our children and grandchildren.
So God speaks quietly to each of us, saying, “Don't give up. I've given you a great opportunity to live deeply with all the tools you need to make it happen. But it'll take time and many missteps for you to grow into your full goodness. I will not give up on you – ever! So don't give up on yourselves, and don't give up on each other. Remember I am with you every step of your journey. I'll keep the light on for you! In fact, I am the light! And I am the way. And, oh, what a homecoming party we'll have for you!”