Honouring Father's Day Through the Eyes of the Prodigal Son

Father's Day is a time of reflection, gratitude, and celebration. It is a day set aside to honour the fathers and father figures who have played essential roles in our lives. As we celebrate this special day, there is a parable from the Bible that offers profound insights into the essence of fatherhood – the Parable of the Prodigal Son.

1. The Parable of the Prodigal Son: An Ageless Tale of Love and Forgiveness
The Parable of the Prodigal Son, found in Luke 15:11 – 32, tells the story of a father and his two sons. The younger son, seeking freedom and adventure, demands his inheritance early and leaves home. He squanders his wealth in a distant land, eventually falling into poverty and despair. In his lowest moment, he decides to return home, hoping for his father's mercy.

The father's response is nothing short of extraordinary. Instead of reprimanding his wayward son, he runs to him, embraces him, and celebrates his return with a grand feast. This story, rich with themes of redemption, forgiveness, and unconditional love, provides a powerful parallel to the essence of fatherhood.

i. The Father’s Unconditional Love

At the heart of the parable is the father's unwavering love for his son. Despite the son's reckless choices and mistakes, the father's love remains constant. This reflects the kind of love many fathers aspire to show – one that is unconditional and enduring. On Father's Day, we celebrate not only the fathers who have guided us with wisdom and strength but also those who have loved us without reservation, even in our moments of failure.

ii. The Joy of Reconciliation

The father’s joy upon his son's return highlights another central aspect of fatherhood: the desire for reconciliation and restored relationships. In the parable, the father’s readiness to forgive and celebrate his son’s return emphasizes the importance of grace. This grace is a cornerstone of strong familial bonds. Father's Day serves as a reminder to cherish these relationships and strive for reconciliation where there is estrangement.

Yes, of course, as children and fathers, relationships may shatter and despair at times. However, let us not allow these incidents to create forever barriers. Instead, we should learn from this parable to mend our broken relationships with our fathers and sons. Just as the father in the parable opens his arms to his returning son, we too can reach out to rebuild and strengthen our familial bonds.

iii. A Father's Patience and Sacrifice

The older son in the parable, who remained with the father and worked diligently, also plays a vital role. The father's response to him – acknowledging his loyalty and assuring him of his love – demonstrates the balance fathers often must strike between patience and sacrifice. Recognizing the efforts of all their children and addressing each one's unique needs is a testament to a father’s wisdom and fairness.

2. Lessons for Modern Fatherhood

The Parable of the Prodigal Son offers timeless lessons for modern fatherhood:
i. Unconditional Love: Fathers are called to love their children without conditions, providing a safe haven where they are always welcome.

ii. Forgiveness and Grace: In the face of mistakes and wayward paths, a father's ability to forgive and extend grace can mend broken relationships and heal wounds.

iii. Celebration of Return: Embracing and celebrating the return of a lost or estranged child underscores the value of family unity and the joy of reconciliation.

iv. Acknowledgment and Fairness: Balancing the needs and recognizing the efforts of all children ensures that each feels valued and loved.

As we celebrate the special day of fathers and appreciate their contributions, let us express the kind words we wish to say while they are still with us. Let us buy them good clothes while they can wear them, treat them to good food while they can enjoy it, show them the world while they can travel, and make them feel proud while they can experience it. Let us thank them before it's too late, and most importantly, let us be their wonderful children and grandchildren while they are still with us.

For those whose fathers have departed for their heavenly abode, I offer this encouragement from Psalm 68:5: “Father of orphans and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation.” Yes, our God is the father of the fatherless, whose love is everlasting and eternal.

As we celebrate Father's Day, let us draw inspiration from the father in the Parable of the Prodigal Son. His example of love, forgiveness, patience, and joy is a beacon for all fathers and father figures. May this day be filled with heartfelt appreciation for the fathers who have shaped our lives, guided us through challenges, and loved us unconditionally. 
Happy Father's Day!

Chuba Yimchunger, UTC, Bengulure
(Studying Master of Theology in Religion at United Theological College, Bengaluru)