Tuesday, March 26
The familiar story told in Luke 15:1-3; 11-32 is often called the “Parable of The Prodigal Son.” A more appropriate name might be the “Parable of the Forgiving Father.” Indeed, this passage speaks to the depth and breadth of God’s love.
First, we see Jesus not just talking to but eating with sinners and tax collectors much to the dismay of the Pharisees and leaders of the Jewish community of the day. These keepers of the rules focused on who to keep out while Jesus offered his message to all.
We know the story – the younger of two sons goes to his father requesting his inheritance and leaves with that treasure to explore. Ultimately, he finds himself destitute and remembering that even the servants in his father’s home have food and shelter. He returns seeking forgiveness while offering to become a servant. The forgiving father sees his lost son from afar and runs to welcome him home ordering the finest meal to celebrate his return. Immediately the father restores the son to his place in the family.
Meanwhile, the elder son who has stayed home and worked diligently all this time returns from the field to hear music and dancing. Learning that the festivities are for his returned brother, he refuses to come in and boasts of his own loyalty and good behavior. The elder son wanted to be acknowledged for his faithfulness, he focused on himself and failed to share his father’s joy. His father came to him and reminded him, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we must celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.”
So what does this mean today? At times we may be the prodigal sons and daughters and at times we may be the elder child, but we are always children of God. God’s love is the unconditional love of a parent who will always find us even in our darkest hour, who will be there when affliction leads us to search for home. The father’s acceptance of the younger son is total – just as is God’s grace. God pursues sinners because we are all children of God.
We are called to welcome the penitent. Just as the forgiving father went to the elder brother who did not want to come in, God calls us to celebrate when someone who is lost is found – in whatever way we may be lost today. Reconciliation involves not only God and the individual but also the individual and the community.
The story does not tell us whether the elder brother went inside and joined the celebration. We should think of times when we too are invited to join in the celebration of redemption – will we go in? Or will we stand outside in self-righteous anger? The parable of the Forgiving Father offers a path.
Prayer: Forgiving Father, our sins are ever before you, yet your love is always before us. May you give us the wisdom to step into that unconditional love, and be the vessels of grace and mercy to all in need of your redemptive life-giving power. Amen.