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The Prodigal World
Sheen’s extraordinarily insightful, if unique, interpretation of the Parable of the Prodigal Son in this work, is historical rather than moral. The younger son in the parable is Western Civilization. After many long centuries in union with the Father’s House, the Church, Western Civilization finally asked its Spiritual Father for its share of the inheritance — not inheritance in the form of gold and silver, but spiritual capital in the form of the eternal truths necessary for salvation. Carried away by its newfound independence from the Father’s House, Western Civilization began to spend the patrimony that Christ committed to His Church. It was not all spent at once, nor was it all spent in the same place, nor with the same friends. Century by century the substance became smaller and smaller, and now as we look back in history, we can tell when each part of the capital was spent. In the 16th century, Western Civilization spent its belief in the necessity of authority. In the 17th century, it spent its belief in Sacred Scripture as the revealed word of God. In the 18th century, it spent its belief in the Divinity of Christ, the necessity of grace, and the whole supernatural structure. In the 19th century, it spent its belief in the existence of God as the Lord and Supreme Judge of the living and the dead. And in our own day it has spent its last penny — a belief in the necessity of religion, the existence of moral absolutes, and the individual’s obligation to a Personal God. Truly, indeed, it has wasted its spiritual capital living riotously. How it can find redemption is the substance of these Lenten meditations.