In that homily the pope draws our attention to the older brother as an example of someone who is rigid, and in doing so he also articulates the cause of rigidity: “he had only ever seen his father as a master not as a father.” Just look at what the older son says to his father when he sees the feast prepared for his wayward brother: “Look, all these years I served you and not once did I disobey your orders…”
“Serve” and “disobey” – these are words that better describe a servant’s relationship with their master rather than a son’s relationship with their father. And that’s the key. Rigidity is the result of a lie, the lie that God is not a Good Father. If we see God as a master then we become attached to the rules and procedures, enslaved to the law. But, as the pope says, “the Law was not made to enslave us but to set us free, to make us children” of God.