This Sunday we are looking at how the two brothers in the parable are assaulting the family by what St. Augustine called “inordinate” loves. Both sons in the parable love something that makes them assault the integrity and well being of the family. The younger brother loves the father’s wealth more than the father. He can’t wait until his father is dead – he asks him to give him his share now – and he takes off to another country, leaving a broken-hearted father and a torn family behind.
When the younger brother returns it is the elder brother’s turn to assault the father. He refuses to go in to the feast and share in the joy of his father. He humiliates him on the greatest day of his life – why? Because he loves the father’s things more than the father. That leaves the family in a deep crisis when Jesus ends the story.
What is it that makes life in community so difficult for us human beings? St. Augustine called it “inordinate love”. It is a term for what the bible calls “idolatry”. If we set our hearts on something other than God and make it into an ultimate thing it becomes a “god” to us. Gods like that have a very destructive influence on our lives. They starve us, they emotionally enslave us and they destroy community and the individual as well. Ambition, Career, Family, Honor and a good name – all of these can become idols if we love them too much. Only God can fill the place of ultimate allegiance and worship in our hearts. What is your heart set on?What or who is your God?