Gospel Reflection: Fourth Sunday of Lent
Malvern Minute

 

FOURTH SUNDAY OF LENT

MARCH 6, 2016

Glory and praise to you Lord, Jesus Christ

I will get up and go to my Father and shall say to him:

Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.

Glory and praise to you Lord, Jesus Christ

 

The Gospel of Saint Luke 15: 1-3, 11-32

Tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to Jesus, but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

So to them Jesus addressed this parable: “A man had two sons, and the younger son said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of your estate that should come to me.’  So the father divided the property between them.   After a few days, the younger son collected all his belongings and set off to a distant country where he squandered his inheritance on a life of dissipation.  When he had freely spent everything, a severe famine struck that country, and he found himself in dire need.  So he hired himself out to one of the local citizens who sent him to his farm to tend the swine.  And he longed to eat his fill of the pods on which the swine fed, but nobody gave him any.  Coming to his senses he thought, ‘How many of my father’s hired workers have more than enough food to eat, but here am I, dying from hunger.  I shall get up and go to my father and I shall say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.   I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as you would treat one of your hired workers.”’   So he got up and went back to his father. 

While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassionHe ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him.  His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I no longer deserve to be called your son.’  But his father ordered his servants, ‘Quickly bring the finest robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.  Take the fattened calf and slaughter it.  Then let us celebrate with a feast, because this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again; he was lost, and has been found.’   Then the celebration began. 

Now the older son had been out in the field and, on his way back, as he neared the house, he heard the sound of music and dancing.  He called one of the servants and asked what this might mean. The servant said to him, ‘Your brother has returned and your father has slaughtered the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’  He became angry, and when he refused to enter the house, his father came out and pleaded with him.  He said to his father in reply, ‘Look, all these years I served you and not once did I disobey your orders; yet you never gave me even a young goat to feast on with my friends.  But when your son returns who swallowed up your property with prostitutes, for him you slaughter the fattened calf.’

He said to him, ‘My son, you are here with me always; everything I have is yours.  But now we must celebrate and rejoice, because your brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’”

The Gospel of the Lord

 

REFLECTION

Which one of us is not familiar with this powerful story which is often referred to as the Parable of the Prodigal Son?   Throughout the centuries the Church of God has meditated deeply on the significance of this story — this revelation concerning the mercy and love of the Father despite the waywardness of the two sons.  While the youngest son gets a great deal of attention, the real significant person is the Father.   The arrogance and insolence of the sons definitely intensifies the story, and therefore helps reveal the incredible patience, sensitivity, and forgiveness of the Father.

The story begins by highlighting the youngest son who arrogantly requests a share of the family’s estate before the death of his father and elder brother.  According to Mid-Eastern culture the younger son had no claim to any of the family’s resources while the father or the older brother was alive!  This is arrogance to an extreme. Nevertheless, the father divided the property between them – both got a share.  This is a generosity that no one at the time of Jesus would understand.   In fact the audience would be expecting that the son to be severely punished and disowned.

The insolence of the youngest son continues by his wasteful and immoral use of the generosity of the Father.  The son’s irresponsibility continues until he found himself in dire needComing to his senses, he decides to return to the Father, confess his sins and give up his title as a son.

Now the drama and attention shifts to the Father.  It appears that the Father never stopped hoping for his son’s return.  Indeed, for when the father caught sight of him, (he) was filled with compassion… and ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him.  Almost ignoring the son’s confession, the Father proceeded to adorn the wayward son with all the symbols of his dignity as a son.

The Father, obviously an image of our Heavenly Father, ignores the expectations of the people of his time and humiliates himself by running to the son and not demanding that the son humiliate himself and beg forgiveness.  The expectation of many, including the older son and maybe some of us is that the Father should severely punish the sinful son and demand server penance for all that he has done.  But the Heavenly Father is not revengeful or unmerciful.   In fact the Heavenly Father, Our Father declares himself to be: gracious and merciful; Slow to anger and great in loving kindness (Psalm 145:8).

Jesus, the Faithful Son of the Heavenly Father knows well the heart of the Father.   In dramatic fashion Jesus reveals the true nature of God.  While humanity is caught in sin and is indeed arrogant and insolent, this in no way distorts God.  Yes, we have all squandered the gifts of God like the son, but when we come to our senses, we have a Merciful Father waiting for our return.  And, we are assured that instead of him chastising or punishing us, He will embrace us and restore us to the dignity we have as a Baptized sonYES, our God welcomes sinners and eats with them!

WE BELIEVE, AND THEREFORE SPEAK (2 Corinthians 4:13)

REJOICE & WITNESS

Consider joining the Men and Women of Malvern by deepening your personal relationship with Jesus and your commitment as a disciple through a weekend retreat.  See our website for details: MalvernRetreat.com

 

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