Going deeper into the analogy of the lost son, there is more squandered here than physical wealth. We can consider Adam and Eve losing more than the idyllic life in paradise. We can also reflect on our own lost innocence.
God gives us dignity. How have we wasted it?
The analogy turns clearly towards (the human) interior. The inheritance that the son had received from his father was a quantity of material goods, but more important than these goods was his dignity as a son in his father’s house. The situation in which he found himself when he lost the material goods should have made him aware of the loss of that dignity. He had not thought about it previously, when he had asked his father to give him the part of the inheritance that was due to him, in order to go away. He seems not to be conscious of it even now, when he says to himself: “How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, but I perish here with hunger.” He measures himself by the standard of the goods that he has lost, that he no longer “possesses,” while the hired servants of his father’s house “possess” them. These words express above all his attitude to material goods; nevertheless under their surface is concealed the tragedy of lost dignity, the awareness of squandered sonship.
Dives in Misericordia, the second encyclical of Pope John Paul II, is available online here, and is copyright © 1980 – Libreria Editrice Vaticana