The Gospel reading for Mass today was on the prodigal son. This is a rich, rich text and I've blogged about it many times before, but today I obtained a new insight.
The son cashed in his inheritance and spent it all on loose living. In other words, he partied hard. If the tale happened in modern times, I'm sure his parties would have been like modern raves: full of drugs, booze, sex, and thumping music. Probably the only difference back in Jesus' day was the style of music played.
Fast forward... famine, pig slop, repentance, "Father I have sinned against heaven and against you..." and the loving father welcomes him back with an embrace, the finest robe, a ring, new sandals - and finally, a party.
Imagine the difference between the two types of party this man experienced. One was full of strangers, fair-weather friends, and left him feeling shallow and empty at the end. The other was a celebration commenced by those who loved him most, who were truly delighted to see him, and who were eager to treat in him as a member of the family again. The latter party was genuine; the former, a counterfeit. They were both "fun" in the moment but only the father's party assured the son of continual love.
This challenged me to ask myself: are the celebrations in which I partake of any lasting value? Do they rejoice in the happening of a great event, or do they create only a fleeting happiness for its own sake?
If you've ever seen me dance at a wedding, you'll know that I can really cut a rug. The "Lumberjack" sequence is especially entertaining to onlookers, I'm told. But for some reason, I can't muster up the inhibition inhibitors to dance at any other time. Only weddings - and really good weddings - juice me up enough to express my joy through dance. But I digress.
The prodigal son experienced a true reason to celebrate: a welcoming back into the arms of his loving father. That must have been one epic party.