Distance cannot separate souls in sympathy with each other. But we may live under the same roof and be divided more widely than if separated by seas and continents. Selfishness is so dominant over human lives that no one is surprised at the younger son in the parable asking for the portion falling to him, nor at the complaint of the elder son, when he heard the "music and dancing," and beheld the feasting when their father had welcomed back the younger son from the "far country," where he had "wasted his substance in riotous living."
lf the object of this beautiful old story of the "Prodigal Son" is to teach the inevitable consequence of selfishness, the welcome home by the father is almost too easily won, but if the object is to teach us that Divine Wisdom and Love waits to welcome penitent souls, and to restore those who have fallen, to the ways of goodness, the lesson is full and complete. But for our modern twentieth century people, dear as the parable is to those who feel they have been wanderers from duty, and love in the "far country" of sin and selfishness, we seem to need a fresh interpretation to meet our modern needs.
Our planet is so small now, that there are no far countries in the old-world sense; a son leaves his home today, and, if "a prodigal," may very easily lose touch with his friends if he wishes to do so, but most modern sons leave their fathers' homes as a matter of simple duty, to take up their work in the world, and the country farthest from home may make the links which bind together the family in love and sympathy, stronger instead of weaker, distance and bodily separations only knitting loving souls more closely to each other.
A son thousands of miles from his birthplace and his father's house, intent on doing his duty and living the highest life he knows, will be nearer and clearer to the heart of his father than when he dwelt beneath the roof where he was born. lf in the great wide world he can live a. strong, gentle, benevolent, unselfish life, the world cannot find, for such a soul, a "far country" in all its twenty-four thousand miles of circumference. Whereas a son may stay at home as the elder son did, and by the daily practice of selfish and sordid vices; justified by the world-wise, may be living in a "far country" all the time, and be feeding on "the husks" of mere animal life, as typified by "the swine."
The "far country" of evil lies about us, we can live in it at home or abroad, but the path of escape is never closed except by our own unwillingness to walk in it, so long as our cry is, "give, give," so long we live in the "far country," so long we waste our soul's substance in riotous living. So long as we think ourselves rich and needing nothing, and know not that we are poor and blind, so long we are from our true selves, but when we "come to ourselves", and know we are "in want" of something better, then, the life of love and peace is seen to be more than the life of getting and having, the "far country" is cast out of our being, and we arise and come to our true home by the light of reason and conscience shining within, and the old errors fall off us as the rags fell off the prodigal, being exchanged for the "best robe" of a true unselfish love.
All great moral and spiritual victories are won within. How barren is the world of selfish luxury! How dark the brightly lighted halls of mirth and revelry! How full of joy the soul alive to all noble ends! As Emerson says, "Let the soul be erect and all things go well." The prisoner in the dungeon with an erect soul sings songs of joy. There is no "far country" to those who live a wise and holy life.
To do a mighty service; we are one
With heaven and the stars, when they are spent To do God's will.
—J. R. Miller, D. D.div
When he dies men will ask what property he has left behind him, but angels will enquire,
"What good deeds hast thou sent before thee?"
—From the Arabic