Not a word was heard from the father as response to the younger son’s demand. The father simply acquiesced to the culturally offensive request of the son. The most profound gestures of respect for the other are often done in the absence of words: “And Mary kept all those things in her heart”: a loud gesture of respect for the otherness of Jesus. Simeon waited for years at the door of the Temple in silence for the Messiah: this is generosity of presence in motion and such is the generosity of the father in our story. The share was given without signing a contract for its utility.
I doubt if I will fully understand the nature of the father’s generosity. My cultural conditioning is to be always calculating in releasing something good to the other. Last weekend, a senior professor of theology I sat with at the dining table blurted out what to her was an encouragement for my career – that my time for facilitating recollections and retreats will bring me nowhere in my professional life and will never count for my promotion. Seems like a “fruitful” second day of the Ignatian retreat we both attended with such millenarian imagination!
If the father is giving without calculating the cost first, isn’t this the kind of silent generosity our man from Nazareth wants his disciples to listen to and practice?
fill me with your Spirit,
that I may actually give
without counting first
the return of what I invest. Amen.