Rags To Riches
by Rev. Robert J. Hermley
Stories for Life Index
Everyone loves to hear a story of rags to riches. Stories with this as heir theme always become popular, and movies dealing with this subject always become an immediate hit. It seems that we all love to hear the tale of a poor man who has nothing and who suddenly becomes rich and who lives happily ever after. I suppose it is because, deep within each one of us there is a burning desire to get rid of the rags of the ordinary life with which we sometimes clothe ourselves and to put on the riches for which each one of us was truly created.
Here, I would like to tell for you a very different kind of story of rags to riches. It is a story of a rich man who has everything and who throws his riches away foolishly and is practically reduced to rages. It is only because of a kind and loving father that the man in our story manages to get back the riches that he has foolishly thrown away and does live happily ever after. The story was first told to us by our Divine Lord, and Jesus called it the story of the Prodigal Son.
You surely remember how the story unfolds. One day, a young, impetuous son came to his father and asked for his share of the family inheritance. He could not wait for it, even though in the first place he did not deserve it. He wanted his share immediately. He belonged to the NOW generation. Give it to me NOW. His father, although saddened by his son's request, nevertheless gave the son his share of the family inheritance and sorrowfully watched his son depart and put some distance between the family and himself.
The young man, Christ tells us, wasted his money on loose living - one might say on wine, women and song - and after a short time the prodigal son, the wasteful son, was penniless. His money was gone. Apparently, so too, were his so-called friends. To make maters worse, a famine came over the land and the wasteful son had to get a job, any job, in order to eat. The only work he could find was to get a job feeding pigs on a farm. I was quite a come-down for the rich playboy.
Christ told us that day after day as he went to work hungry, he longed to feed his belly with the fodder he was given to use as feed for the pigs, but no one offered to let him have any. One day, as he worked in this job with low esteem, he said to himself, "What a fool I am. There are slaves on my father's farm living a better and nicer life than I am living here. I know what I will do. I will go back to father's house and fall on my knees before my father and tell him that I have sinned against heaven and against him. I will tell him I am not worthy to be called his son, and I will beg him to make me one of his servants."
So it came to pass that the wasteful son made his way back to his father's house to beg forgiveness. Jesus told us that while the son was on his way, the father spotted him coming at a great distance. This means that perhaps each day, the old man knowing what would eventually happen, went out often to look for his son, anticipating his return. He looked into the distance for his wasteful son, wondering when he would come to his senses. Now he saw him approaching and Scripture tells us. "The father ran out to meet his repentant son."
The son came close, fell on his knees and said, "Father I have sinned against you. I am not worthy to be called your son. Make me one of your slaves." But the old man would have none of this. He called to the servants, "Bring him new robes, a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet, and kill the fatted calf, for my son has returned. This son of mine was dead and had come back to life. He was lost and he is found."
It is important to remember that the story of the Prodigal son was a parable made up by Christ. It did not actually happen. Christ made up the story to illustrate a very important point - His mercy; His forgiveness. For the Prodigal Son is the story of modern man who has been given precious riches in Baptism. Infected by modern temptations from the world, the flesh and the devil, modern man says, "I want my happiness NOW. I don't want to wait for joy in the future. Give me my happiness, my fortune NOW. I'm not interested in pie-in-the-sky promises. I want my mirth on earth and I want it NOW." So, modern man turns over his baptismal innocence for worldly pleasure. He leaves his Father's house, which is the Church, and revels in wine, women, and song; with the flesh and the devil. He surrenders his birthright for a mess of worldly pottage - and even sometimes for a pot of foolish message - the devil's message, "All of this I will give you if you fall down and worship me - if you will follow me and deny your heritage."
So, modern man leaves the Church, revels in abortion, birth control and sexual promiscuity - and one day he feels the famine within his very soul. He longs for the happiness he once knew in his Father's house. Sometimes despair grips him. Remembrances of years gone by haunt his memory and he longs to feed his soul with a heavenly food which once brought him a fullness he enjoyed so very much. A loneliness grips him and since he has abandoned his father's house, a friendly house, he realizes now that he has been cavorting with pigs.
Jesus, at a distance, goes out each day looking to see if the Prodigal Son will come home. He peers out of the tabernacle to see if the wasteful son has returned. He opens the confessional door to be ready to leap up and welcome the wandering son or daughter. And the rest, dear reader, is up to you. Christ has told us how the father in the story reacted, how he forgave, how he returned the youth to riches.
Why, then, wear rags when we can return to the riches of Sanctifying grace and to a father who never stopped loving an ungrateful son? Let us break away from the clutches of a sinful world and say to our Father, "I have sinned against heaven and against You." We know what the Father will do.