In the initial dialogue the younger son asks his father to “let him have the share of the estate that would come to” him. His father’s reply is positive: he divides the property between the two sons. Unfortunately the English translation of this part of the gospel is not perfect. The original, Greek text uses two meaningful words: the son requests the father for “ousias”, which means fortune, but the father gives him “bion”, which should be translated as a means to life. For the son property or money is something to be used. Money only has value when you try to spend it or buy something with it, something that allows you to satisfy your every whim. For the father wealth is a means for living a good life; the value of wealth comes from hard work and honesty.
The father and the son differ in their understanding of the meaning of wealth. Something similar happens when people sin. Sin is nothing more than using good things in the wrong way. Salesmen usually attach an instruction manual to items they sell; if you use an item contrary to the instruction, you are in no position to complain or claim your money back. When we use God’s gift contrary to the intention of the Giver, we shouldn’t complain if something goes wrong.
Let’s go back to the gospel. The younger son spent all his money and found himself in dreadful conditions: no money, no friends, no food. The intention on his return to the father is not spiritually motivated; it’s rather weak. He begins to miss having a full belly. I suppose that on the way back home he was trying to arrange a convincing way of asking his father to let him stay; he was still focused on himself. Real transformation in him happens in his father’s arms. The experience of unconditional fatherly love lets him fully understand the scale of the evil ha had done. At the same time he understands that the father forgives him.
Quite often I come across people who have stopped practising their faith, but endangered by some situations start again to look for God. I don’t condemn them; for God an initial intention is not the most important thing. For God the most important thing is to meet an individual and let him or her experience unconditional and constant love; because love is the only thing that can transform a person.