While he was still far off his father saw him and was was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. Luke 15:21
God of compassion, you are slow to anger, and full of mercy, welcoming sinners who return to you with a penitent heart; receive in your loving embrace all who come home to you, and seat them at your bountiful table that, with all your children, may feast with delight on all that satisfies the hungry heart. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ our saviour, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.
- Joshua 5:2 – 12
- Psalm 32
- 2 Corinthians 5:16 – 21
- Luke 15:11 – 32
- Isaiah 43:16 – 21
- Psalm 126
- Philippians 3:3 – 14
- John 12 1 – 8
Lent 4 – Luke 15:11 – 32
The parable of the prodigal son, as today’s gospel is commonly known, is probably the most inaccurately titled story in all of literature. Jesus’s tale that tells us about the boys sin then about the abundant mercy of his father who forgives his son and joyfully welcomes him home even before the son can bring himself to ask.
The father in today’s gospel parable is held up by Jesus as the model of the minister of reconciliation. Note that when he catches sight of his son in the distance, the Father runs to greet and embrace him even before he opens his mouth to begin his carefully rehearsed speech. The father welcomes his son joyfully and completely, with no recriminations, no conditions, no rank. Parents love that is the very reflection of God’s love for each one of us – love that always welcomes back, love that reconciles and heals, but that perseveres through every hurt and heartache.
The father’s joy stands in sharp contrast to the prodigal son’s brother, who cannot even bring himself to call the prodigal his “brother” – in confronting his father, he angrily refers to the brother as “this son of yours.” This parable of forgiveness and reconciliation (found only in Luke’s Gospel) reveals a God of such great love that he cannot bear the loss of a single child. Jesus holds up the father as the model of the love and forgiveness of God the Father that we should seek in all relationships.
Jesus calls us not to condemn or gloat or belittle the prodigals among us about to enable their return, to picking them up no matter how many times they fall, to open our arms and welcome them back again and again and again.
Forgiveness demands that we be all 3 parts in the drama of the prodigal son, to be the prodigal son, facing up to our own culpability and selfishness that causes division and hurt, to be the forgiving father, being openhearted enough to make the 1st step to welcome back into our lives those who have hurt us, to be the oldest brother, putting aside our own hurt and outrage (no matter how justified) for the sake of reconciliation and peace within our families and communities.
Like the prodigal, we are all have those “pigsty” epiphanies. When we finally face the mess of our own selfishness, our insensitivity, our dishonesty has made of our lives and the lives of those we love. Lent calls us to embrace God’s grace, grace that enables us to lift ourselves out of the mud of our sins to reconnect again with family and friends, grace that empowers us to jettison our selfishness and deceptions and recreate our broken lives and the healing peace of the risen Christ.
The word “forgiveness” comes from the Greek word meaning to “to let go”. That is the heart of forgiveness: letting go – letting go of our desperate grasp of the past so that we can turn towards the future with hope. The older brothers resentment and anger makes it impossible for him to move on, Jesus calls us to embrace the example of the prodigal’s father, to let go of our anger and embrace – for our own peace – the possibilities for reconciliation with our “prodigal sons and daughters.
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