For understanding just how this parable applies to us we must first consider how inheritance laws applied to Jews back then, To put it cryptically, the land belonged to the family’s descendents just as much as it belonged to them.
In the time of Moses and Joshua, the leaders of the tribes, except for the tribe of Levi, drew lots for the portions of land that would belong to each tribe forever. After that, the leaders of each family in each tribe drew lots to see what land would belonged to its family forever.
The story of Ruth dramatized the unbreakable link between a family and its ancestral land. When Naomi, to support herself, needed to sell her dead husband Elimelech’s land, she could only sell it to his nearest relative.
In Our Lord’s parable the Prodigal Son’s father could turn the management of land over to his sons, but he could not give them it ownership.
It was understood by all those who listened to Jesus telling this parable that the first sin of the son consisted in acting as if he owned that land outright, so that he had the right to do with it as he wished.
I have forgotten ninety-nine and a half percent of the things that happened during the twenty-four years I taught our parish middle school’s Religion class. But one thing I remember is a girl raising her hand, saying, “My life is my own to do with as I want. So, what right has anyone to say what I can do with it?”