It’s been a long time since I passed the collection basket around at Sunday Mass but one parable that’s always stayed with me is that of the Prodigal Son. A greatest hit from disciple Luke, it tells the tale of a loving father with two sons and an inheritance that one boy was too impatient to wait for.
Sure enough, the young son was granted his share of the family fortune and fled his father’s nest in search of pastures new. When said pasture was hit by a famine, he returned with hat in hand and a speech prepared, begging his old man’s forgiveness for ‘I hath been a fool’.
To the son’s surprise, the loving father cut the failed entrepreneur off mid-sentence, ushering a humble servant to fetch him a golden cloak and to slaughter a fattened calf to celebrate. Naturally, the elder, loyal son, who had stayed behind to tend the farm in his fickle brother’s absence, felt aggrieved:
“You never slaughtered a calf for me, Da,” he yelled.
To which the Father replied; ‘It was right that we should make merry and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.’
My own lord and saviour, my Mother, used to think I’d make a great priest. I’d go to Mass every Sunday and sit by her side to appease her, and religiously criticise the priest after we’d received the final blessing for making no effort to relate his sermon to something topical that I could understand.
“It’s not his job to entertain,” she’d protest, and today, it’s not my job to serve Communion but here’s a homily about the Prodigal Son that I’d happily deliver to a packed congregation:
My dear brothers and sisters. In case you missed it, a certain Rory McIlroy has pledged his commitment to next year’s Irish Open should it fit into its rumoured new slot of May 2020.
After missing this summer’s fantastic renewal at Lahinch, McIlroy confirmed last week that, “I’ll be playing The Irish Open next year,” before admitting, “I felt that my best preparation for The Open Championship this year was to play the Scottish Open and not play the one before. Obviously in hindsight, I probably should have played at Lahinch.”
You see, just like the young son in the Bible story, McIlroy sought a new path to Major glory but discovered, to his detriment, that the grass isn’t always greener. What saddens me, is that unlike the loving father who opened his arms to the return of his son, McIlroy’s Motherland – Ireland – has been quite unforgiving.
What’s interesting is that there is no jealous older brother in this scenario. Shane Lowry was one of many vocal in his support of McIlroy’s decision to skip this summer’s Irish Open and he’ll be glad to have him back.
After all, it was largely because of the four-time Major winner that the tournament still existed and considering all he’d done for the tournament – rescuing it from ruin, elevating it to Rolex Series status, winning it, donating his first prize cheque to charity and ensuring its longevity for many years to come – who was more deserving of a one-off reprieve?
But you have to understand, McIlroy’s fervent detractors don’t want to hear of his good traits. Some people are so blinded by begrudgery that they can’t see through the fog of their own disdain. You can be guaranteed that the same people unwilling to embrace McIlroy as an Irish golfer will be found toasting an Irish victory this Saturday against Japan at the Rugby World Cup.
‘And why wouldn’t I?’ they’ll ask as the irony passes over their heads.
Given that the world has never been so small, information never so accessible and our insignificance in the grand scheme of the universe never so apparent, it’s a shame that in 2019, the trait of forgiveness that the father found so easily back then can today, prove so elusive.
I for one, like the father in the parable, will welcome Rory McIlroy home with open arms next year. Just as the father recognised his family would be markedly more enriched with his second boy back at the dinner table, the Irish Open will be a much, much better tournament with the world number two – plausibly world number one come May – lining out in the field.
You can pass around the baskets.