Prodigal Son Story

By Diane Berke

"Ask not to be forgiven, for this has already been accomplished. Ask, rather, to learn how to forgive, and to restore what always was to your unforgiving mind." -ACIM

The parable of the prodigal son offers a full and rich metaphor for our journey of healing within the dream of separation. Listen to the story of the prodigal son and learn what God's treasure is and yours:

"The son of a loving father left his home and thought he had squandered everything for nothing of any value, although he had not understood its worthlessness at the time. He was ashamed to return to his father, because he thought he had hurt him. Yet when he came home the father welcomed him with joy, because the son himself was his father's treasure. He wanted nothing else."

ACIM Chapter 8

Through this parable, Jesus teaches us clearly that there is no condemnation in God. The prodigal left home and wandered deep into the far country of illusion and despair.

One morning, the story says, he awoke and "came to himself." He remembered that he had a home and a kind and loving father. He decided to go home. The prodigal set out on his journey home believing that he had sinned against his father and that he was no longer worthy to be called his father's son. Yet when his father heard that he was coming, he sent an escort to meet him and make the journey of return with him. When the prodigal came before him, the father greeted him with unreserved welcome, joy, feasting, and celebration. In effect, the father said to his son,

"You are mistaken in how you see yourself. You are still my son, my heart's treasure, whom I love and in whom I delight." --ACIM

Only then did the prodigal come to understand that nothing had changed, nothing had been lost, nothing had destroyed his identity or his father's love. The teaching of the parable does not end, however, with the prodigal's return. There was a second son, who had appeared to be "good" and to do everything his father wanted. This son became jealous and angry over his father's celebration of his brother's return and complained bitterly that his father had never held such a feast for him. He would have denied his brother welcome, pointing out his brother's "sins" and contrasting them with his own "righteousness."

Just as the father did not condemn the prodigal for his wanderings, neither did he become angry with his second son's bitterness and jealousy. He simply reminded this son, gently and lovingly, that all his, the father's, wealth was also hisand always had been. It was freely his for the accepting, just as it was being freely given his brother.

This second son's belief that his father's favor and grace had to be earned shows that he did not really know his father's loving nature. That lack of understanding and his self-righteous stance had separated him from his father just as much as the prodigal's misguided wanderings had done. He too had denied himself the experience of his father's limitless abundance and love.

Regardless of the past, the second son's unforgiveness of his brother was all that kept him from fully sharing in the feast now. The unforgiveness in our minds is all that is keeping us from awakening and sharing in the overflowing richness of Creation.

It is not God's forgiveness that we need, for as this story makes clear, our Father has not condemned us. It is our own forgiveness that is needed, for we have banished ourselves from the awareness and experience of His Love. We receive the gifts of forgiveness as we are willing to extend forgiveness to our brother.

The challenge of our healing journey is twofold—for we are like both the prodigal son and the self-righteous son in this parable.

Like the prodigal, we need to recognize that we cannot find fulfillment, happiness, safety, or peace in the ego's world, in all the misdirected ways and places we've sought for them. We can find our treasure only by remembering who we are, by coming home. This is our deepest longing, our true heart's desire. Even in the midst of lostness and pain, for a moment we can "come to ourselves."We can glimpse a memory, however vague, of a home we dearly loved. We can hear it call softly to us in the longing of our heart, and we can decide to go home. In the holy instant of that decision, our journey has begun. Then, like the second son, we must learn that whenever we would deny a brother his rightful place as God's Son, we also deny our own.

Only by our willingness to recognize and celebrate who he is in truth—no matter how far he may seem to have strayed, no matter what he seems to have done—can we know our own Identity as well. We can share in the blessing that is ours only as one. In this way our dream is transformed. In this way we are made ready for awakening.

"Dream softly of your sinless brother, who unites with you in holy innocence. And from this dream the Lord of Heaven will Himself awaken His beloved So." --ACIM
 

Love Always Answers by Diane Berke The core practices of A Course in Miracles are forgiveness and listening to the Holy Spirit, our inner teacher, the voice for God within us.

 

 
 

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