Saturday of the Second Week of Lent
The Prodigal Son 1888 John Macallan Swan 1847-1910 Presented by the Trustees of the Chantrey Bequest 1889
Reading 1 MI 7:14-15, 18-20
Shepherd your people with your staff,
the flock of your inheritance,
That dwells apart in a woodland,
in the midst of Carmel.
Let them feed in Bashan and Gilead,
as in the days of old;
As in the days when you came from the land of Egypt,
show us wonderful signs.
Who is there like you, the God who removes guilt
and pardons sin for the remnant of his inheritance;
Who does not persist in anger forever,
but delights rather in clemency,
And will again have compassion on us,
treading underfoot our guilt?
You will cast into the depths of the sea all our sins;
You will show faithfulness to Jacob,
and grace to Abraham,
As you have sworn to our fathers
from days of old.
Responsorial Psalm PS 103:1-2, 3-4, 9-10, 11-12
R. (8a) The Lord is kind and merciful.
Bless the LORD, O my soul;
and all my being, bless his holy name.
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits.
R. The Lord is kind and merciful.
He pardons all your iniquities,
he heals all your ills.
He redeems your life from destruction,
he crowns you with kindness and compassion.
R. The Lord is kind and merciful.
He will not always chide,
nor does he keep his wrath forever.
Not according to our sins does he deal with us,
nor does he requite us according to our crimes.
R. The Lord is kind and merciful.
For as the heavens are high above the earth,
so surpassing is his kindness toward those who fear him.
As far as the east is from the west,
so far has he put our transgressions from us.
R. The Lord is kind and merciful.
Verse Before The Gospel LK 15:18
I will get up and go to my father and shall say to him,
Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.
Gospel LK 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 compassion.
He 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.'”
Monastery of Christ in the Desert, Abiquiu, New Mexico
My sisters and brothers in the Lord,
The Gospel today, from Saint Luke, is one of the most touching teachings of the New Testament. The characters are strong and clear: a loving father who always forgives and shows love and never holds sins again his children; a son who doesn’t care about anything except himself and takes his inheritance and wastes it and then comes home; the older brother who has always been faithful but is now filled with resentment because the father loves his son who wasted everything.
When we hear this teaching, it is not meant so that we can judge others. This is a teaching inviting you and me to repentance. We need to recognize each of those sons in ourselves and we need to pray that we may be as loving and forgiving as the father. This is being reconciled to God: love all others, no matter what they have done, no matter if they hate you, no matter if they try to kill you, no matter if they make fun of you. Love, mercy and forgiveness are the heart of following Jesus.
Forgive us our trespasses, O Lord, as we forgive those who trespass against us. Amen.
Your brother in the Lord,
Commentary on Luke 15:1-3, 11-32 From Living Space
The parable of the Prodigal Son, a marvellous revelation of God’s unending love and mercy for the repentant sinner.
Steps in the story:
The son receives his share of the inheritance from a loving father. Asking for his inheritance while his father was still alive was tantamount to saying he could not wait until his father had died.
He goes off to a far country, far from his father.
He is not only far in distance but also in thinking: he wastes the inheritance he has been given in pleasures and enjoyment of the most immoral kind.
In the end, he has nothing.
A famine strikes the place and he has nothing to eat, no money to buy food.
He is forced (horror of horrors for a Jew) to feed pigs and is so hungry he is ready even to eat the slops given to them. One can hardly imagine a lower level of abasement and poverty.
Then, he comes to his senses.
He thinks of the home and the loving father he abandoned so stupidly.
Where the lowest servants/slaves are better off than he is.
He will try to go home.
After what he has done, he does not expect to be accepted back.
He will beg to be taken as one of the lowest servants.
He prepares a carefully worded speech for his father.
Then he starts the journey back in fear and trepidation. He knows he deserves very severe treatment, if not outright rejection. “Go back to your pigs and your whores!”
While still far away, the father sees him. He has been anxiously waiting all this time.
But he never sent out to have him brought back.
If the son wants to go his own way, the father will not stop him. He will not be forced back.
Full of compassion the father rushes out to welcome his returning son and takes him in his arms.
The son tries to make his speech of repentance but it is totally ignored.
Instead orders are given for the best clothes to be brought out and a magnificent banquet to be laid on.
“This son of mine was dead and has come back to life; he was lost and is found.”
It is a time of celebration.
The elder son, working in the fields (the Lord’s vineyard) comes back at the end of a hard day and hears the sounds of merrymaking.
When he is told what is going on, he is extremely angry.
He has been a loyal, faithful, hard-working son and nothing even approaching this was ever done for him.
While his brother, who was steeped in debauchery and wasted so much of his father’s wealth, is welcomed like a returning hero.
He refuses to go into his father’s house. (Surely the saddest words in this story.)
The father remonstrates: “You are always with me and everything I have is yours.
But your son was utterly lost. Now he is back, we have to celebrate.”
The story is a clear reply to the criticism of the scribes and Pharisees that Jesus was mixing and eating with sinners. They simply did not understand the mind of God as revealed in Jesus’ behaviour. How well do we understand them?
The two clear lessons for today are:
– I can be absolutely sure of God’s mercy and forgiveness provided I turn back to him in true sorrow.
– I need to have the same attitude of compassion with people who offend me. I must be ready to forgive and be reconciled. I cannot refuse to love someone that God loves.
There are three people in this story and we can identify with all of them:
– The son who went far from his Father and followed his own way into the most degrading behaviour.
– The son who thought he was good and observant but, deep down, did not have the mind of his Father at all. He kept the commandments and all the rules but did not have a forgiving heart. He did not belong in his Father’s house.
– The Father whose love never changes no matter what his children do and is ready to accept them back every time without exception.
Which of these three most represents me? Which one would I want to be like? Many say they identify most with the elder son. Which, of course, is the point of the story. They are the real sinners – who shut their hearts against God’s compassionate love.
COMPASSION IN FORGIVENESS TOWARDS OTHERS SPRINGS FROM OUR ACKNOWLEDGEMENT OF OUR SINFULNESS AND THE RECEPTION OF GOD’S MERCY
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ MIC 7:14-15, 18-20; PS 102:1-2, 3-4, 9-10, 11-12; LK 15:1-3; 11-32 ]
Why are we lacking in compassion for others? Why are we often lacking in fidelity to God? There is only one fundamental reason, the failure to grasp the height, depth, length and breadth of God’s merciful love for us. How can we render mercy and forgiveness to others if we ourselves have not experienced His love and forgiveness?
The capacity for mercy and forgiveness presupposes we know God’s mercy. This is what the first reading and the psalm wants to proclaim. If only we know from our heart the unimaginable patience, long suffering love of God and His forgiving love, no matter what our sins are, we would be grateful to Him for all eternity. Yes, the prophet exclaimed, “What god can compare with you: taking fault away, pardoning crime, not cherishing anger for ever but delighting in showing mercy? Once more have pity on us, tread down our faults, to the bottom of the sea throw all our sins.” If only we believe what the prophet said regarding our sins being cast to the bottom of the sea, then we will have no fear of God’s judgment. But deep in our hearts, even though our doctrines proclaim God’s justice is His mercy, yet we do not really believe that He will forgive us for our faults and failings. On the contrary, we think He wants to take revenge on us. We find it impossible that God can forgive us just like that, and not remember our sins anymore!
If we have great difficulty in accepting the Father’s mercy for us, it is because we are just like the two sons in today’s gospel. Whether we have the attitude of the younger or elder son, the bottom line is that both do not know the Father’s mercy and never really believed, like us, that God is all mercy and forgiving. The great parable of today’s gospel of the Prodigal son, sometimes also rendered as the Prodigal father, speaks much about the Father’s love.
What, then, is the obstacle in coming to faith in God’s merciful love? It is the failure to recognize our sinfulness. The younger son left home in defiance of his father’s wish. He was totally irresponsible and ungrateful for all that his father did for him. Worse still, he squandered away all the hard earned money given to him by his father. The elder son’s attitude to the father was certainly no better than that of the younger son. The latter might have sinned by disobedience and selfishness, but the former sinned by his self-righteousness. Even when the father tried to placate him, he was adamant about his stand with regard to “this son of yours”, a denial of any relationship whatsoever to his younger brother and implicitly his rejection of his father as well.
If both have sinned against the father, it was the sin of losing their identity, which is to be the sons of the father. For what is sin, if not the loss of our identity as God’s children? In different ways, both have rejected their father. The younger son demanded for his share of the will, as if the father were dead, and left him to live with the pagans in a faraway land. The elder son sinned no less when he regarded himself as a slave of the father, and in his anger, expressed the sentiments of his heart: “Look, all these years I have slaved for you and never once disobeyed your orders, yet you never offered me so much as a kid for me to celebrate with my friends.”
Yet, the truth remains that none of us is ever excluded from the Father’s unconditional and faithful love. Even though we might forget him, He will never forget that we are His children. He will always remain our Father, even when we have forgotten our sonship or daughtership. He will always be our shepherd, even if we have become stray sheep. As the prophet says, “With shepherd’s crook, O Lord, lead your people to pasture, the flock that is your heritage, living confined in a forest with meadow land all around.”
Truly, God is lavish in His love for us. This is the reason for us to re-title the story of the Prodigal Son as the story of the Prodigal Father – ‘prodigal’ for the fact that this word underscores the sentiments of extravagance, lavishness and abundance. When applied to the father, it describes his wasteful love for his son because none of us would ever love the way the father loves his two sons. He even waited for his younger son to return home one day, for he was always on the look out for him. The parable implies this when it says, “While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with pity. He ran to the boy, clasped him in his arms and kissed him tenderly.” Upon his return, the father, without any need of explanation from his younger son, restored him to his position of sonship. With the elder son, it was as if the father was in his debt, for he pleaded with him humbly to go into the house to celebrate: “My son, you are with me always and all I have is yours. But it was only right we should celebrate and rejoice, because your brother here was dead and has come to life; he has lost and is found.”
Yes, if we can identify with the sons in today’s parable and enter into the heart of the father, then we would be so confident of the Father’s mercy and love. We will then be able to pray with the psalmist from the depth of our being, saying, “The Lord is kind and merciful. He pardons all your iniquities; he heals all your ills. He will not always chide, nor does he keep his wrath forever. Not according to our sins does he deal with us, nor does he requite us according to our crimes.”
So today, let us beg the Lord for this grace to open our hearts to His mercy and love, never doubting that God will not forgive us, or keep a record of all our misdeeds. Nay, the psalmist declares, “For as the heavens are high above the earth, so surpassing is his kindness toward those who fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has he put our transgressions from us.” Let us also pray with the prophet saying, “Let them pasture in Bashan and Gilead as in the days when you came out of Egypt grant us to see wonders.” Yes, let us tell the Lord once again, “Grant Jacob your faithfulness, and Abraham your mercy, as you swore to our fathers from the days of long ago.”
Arising from this awareness and recovery of our sonship and therefore His fatherhood, we will be able to respond with fidelity to His love. This fidelity will then be expressed in our identification with our fellowmen in compassion and love, because we have come to realize our sinful nature and at the same time, His healing and forgiving love.
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