Saturday, February 27, 2016
Reflection: Luke 15:1-3, 11-32
Saturday of the Second Week of Lent – Luke 15:1-3, 11-32
Today the Pharisees continue their criticism of Jesus. They are upset and angry that Jesus not only welcomes sinners but he also has the audacity sit down at table and eat with them. How dare he do this? As always, Jesus is able to read the minds and the hearts of the Pharisees.
Jesus decides to respond to their unspoken criticism in a roundabout way. As he often does, Jesus tells them a parable. Today’s parable is the familiar story of the prodigal son. We know that the father in the story has two sons. The youngest son asks his father for his inheritance and the father agrees to his request. The father divides all that he had and gives his second son his fair share. This son immediately takes his inheritance and leaves. He has wanderlust and he is anxious to see the wonders of the world. However, in the process of his travels, he spends his entire inheritance.
On the other hand, the eldest son is extremely responsible. He is obedient to his father and he manages the estate well. He is a dutiful son and a good steward of all that was in his charge, including the servants and the temporalities. The eldest son was faithful to his father and to his duties.
Over time, the youngest son squanders his inheritance on loose living. When his money runs out, he has to tend swine as he has no other skills. His life consists of drudgery and hard, dirty work. He spends his days and nights with the swine. It is a hard and lonely life.
Finally, the younger son comes to his senses and he decides to return home. (Note: it is his hunger and poverty that brings him to his senses.) He has nothing to eat. He is so hungry that he is tempted to eat what the swine are eating! He knows that his father’s servants are well fed. If he worked for his father, he would have food to eat and a roof over his head.
However, he also realizes that he needs to ask his father to forgive him. He realizes that his father owes him nothing. However, if he could work for his father, at least he would have food to eat and a place to live. So the youngest son began his journey home.
Imagine that you are the youngest son who is returning home. What thoughts might go through your mind? What would you plan to say to your father? How high do you think your anxiety level would be? What would be your greatest fear? And yet, what do you have nothing to lose? Your life is in shambles and, if necessary, you will accept whatever work is given to you, no matter how menial it might be. Your pride has to be left behind.
As we know, the father had been looking for his son since the day his son had left him. Every day the father went out hoping that he would see his son walking up the road. Until this day, every day the father had returned home sad, yearning for his son to come home. The father waited faithfully day after day.
Finally the day arrives when the father sees someone coming down the road and realizes that it is his youngest son! Luke writes: “The father was filled with compassion” (and likely great joy and happiness). As soon as the father sees his son, he runs to him and embraces him! Immediately, the prodigal son know that he is forgiven and he realizes how deeply his father loves him.
Today is a good day to place ourselves in the shoes of the prodigal son or the prodigal daughter. At times in our lives, we also have left the home of our God. At times, we have wandered away. Perhaps we also squandered what little we had. How long did we keep our distance from God? Were we afraid that God would never forgive us? Perhaps we thought we didn’t deserve to be forgiven. Despite our doubts, God is always on the lookout for us, yearning for us, waiting for us to return home. God will never stop loving us!
Today take a few moments and thank God for the steadfast love, care, and blessings that God has bestowed on you in your life. Bask for a few moments this reality. There is no greater gift. God will never leave us. When we do leave God for a period of time, God will look for us patiently until we choose to return home. Then the celebration will begin!