The Parable of the Lost Son

Luke 15: 1-3, 11-32
Mic 7: 14-15, 18-20 / Ps 103

“This brother of yours was dead, and has come back to life. He was lost and is found. And for that we had to rejoice and be glad.”
(Luke 15:32)

Great is the mercy of our Father
Whose heart is in our deliverance;
Our sins forgiven by no other,
Who rejoices in our repentance.

There was a man who had two sons. The younger said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them. Not long after, the younger son gathered all he had, set off for a distant country and squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, a severe famine struck the whole country, and he began to be in need. So he hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his piggery. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. Coming to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; take me as one of your hired men.’ So he got up and went to his father. While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with pity for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate. Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. Calling one of the servants, he asked what was going on. ‘Your brother has returned, and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’ ‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’

Reflection

The Pharisees and the scribes prided themselves in being righteous and obedient to God’s laws, and would never associate with sinners like the tax collectors. They could not understand why Jesus welcomed these “unclean” people in His company. So our Lord related to them His Parable of the Prodigal Son. But it was not merely for the sake of the Pharisees and scribes that Jesus told this story. More importantly, He gave this parable so that Christians of all generations would come to know that God, His Father, is a person, Who hurts when we go astray, seeks us out when we are lost, and rejoices when we repent of our sins and are converted again. He said, “There will be rejoicing in heaven among the angels of God over one repentant sinner”(Lk 15:10).

This must be the most beautiful of all the parables given by our Lord. The message encompasses all generations of man’s history, and the human elements of the characters depicted are so provocative, and yet so typical. Like the brashness of the spoiled youngest son, who insulted his father by demanding his inheritance even if his father was still alive, just to satisfy his lust for travel and the good life. Or the elder son, who, like all first-borns was more responsible and upright, but more unforgiving, with his sense of justice prevailing over compassion for his humbled sibling. But best of all was the father. He was a wise man, successful in business, and seeking only the happiness of his children. Typical of most loving fathers, he could not refuse the pleas of his son, who wanted to be on his own. Perhaps he was hoping in his heart that by giving him his share of the inheritance this son of his would be able to find his own niche in life, and like himself, become as successful. And like many of us, the father made the wrong decision.

Our Lord shows us in today’s Gospel how deep and unfathomable His Father’s love is for all of us, and whatever our sins may be, we will always be forgiven, as long as we repent and turn back to Him from our sinful ways. God’s love is deeper than that of any human father. For who is the father who would allow his own son to suffer and die for the sake of sinners?

Dear Father God, You have shown us Your great compassion in this parable of Jesus about the prodigal son. If we have squandered our blessings, You still welcome us back with open arms. Your mercy is greater than our sins. Now that we have seen the measure of Your love, grant that we may also forgive and welcome back to our company those who have wronged us. This we pray in Jesus’ Name. Amen.

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