The Prodigal Son, Revised Version

Now the older son had been out in the field and, on his way back, as he neared the house, he heard the sound of music and dancing. He called one of the servants and asked what this might mean. The servant said to him, “Your brother has returned and your father has slaughtered the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.”

He became angry, and when he refused to enter the house, his father came out and pleaded with him. He said to his father in reply, “Look, all these years I served you and not once did I disobey your orders; yet you never gave me even a young goat to feast on with my friends. But when your son returns who swallowed up your property with prostitutes, for him you slaughter the fattened calf. Aren’t you worried that if you treat him so well after the way he’s behaved, I might decide to leave? And where would you be then? I’m the only one who keeps this place running." 

And the father said, “My son, you have a point. I hadn’t considered your position. You’ve been loyal and steadfast. You've always done your duty. And no one can deny you lead an exemplary and objectively well-ordered life. As far as I know, you've never spent a denarius on prostitutes. In fact, you conspicuously shun them. Let me think this over.”

Then, having thought it over, he returned to his younger son and said, “Ahem. Listen, I’m afraid I may have overdone it earlier. It’s true I’ve missed you, and seeing you again after such a long absence got me worked up. I’d like to help you out, I really would, but my hands are tied. It would be unjust, unmerciful even, for me to pretend that your current situation isn’t a complete contradiction of everything I tried to teach you. And what would the neighbors think? They might imagine I approve of prostitution and improvidence. Even your brother might get the wrong idea. No, I can't afford a misunderstanding like that. It would ruin everything. Why don't you come back after you’ve recovered the money you wasted. Then we’ll talk. Until then, your brother and I wish you luck. We’ll be with you in spirit.”

Matthew Boudway is senior editor of Commonweal.

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