Texts: Joshua 5: 9-12, Psalm 33, 2 Corr: 5:17-21. St Luke 15: 1-3, 11-32
In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen
Although this passage is always referred to as the parable of the Prodigal Son it would be better retitled the parable of the Forgiving Father for it says more than anything about the loving forgiveness of a father for his child.
It was not unusual for a Jewish man to divide up his property amongst his sons[! – note; especially if he felt he could afford to hand over the management of his affairs to his heirs and in effect retire. But the law was specific in how the property must be divided; the elder would be assigned two-thirds and the younger one-third. So in this story the elder son was gaining over half the inheritance to begin with.
What is more unusual is that the request came not from the father but the younger son. He wasn’t the one looking after the property; maybe he was at a loss to know what to do with his life. His father does not try to dissuade him whatever his doubts might have been. He knew his son and he also knew that the often the real lessons of life are learnt the hard way. He let him have his head and he went off, to ‘sow his wild oats’. And sew them he did, big time. But the father never gives up on this son; he is after all his own flesh and blood. He no doubt is watching, waiting and hoping for his son’s return because the gospel tells us ‘while the son was still a long way off, the father saw him and ran to him’. What a different welcome from the one the lad was expecting.
The boy had come to his senses. He had reached rock bottom and when that happens to any of us the only way forward is up. In his father’s household, a slave had no rights and no freedom but he was fed, housed and clothed and treated as part of an extended family. He would have security if not his freedom. A hired servant, on the other hand, had nothing and could be hired and fired at the whim of the householder. He might have been nominally freer but he had no security at all and starvation was always round the corner. But the young son felt even this precarious lifestyle was better than even he had at the moment.
This story is a parable and that means a picture story Jesus was telling us for a reason. The landowner is God the Father, the sons are us, His children, His spiritual flesh and blood.
He lets us go and experience the world but He never lets us out of His sight. We are always precious to Him, no matter what we do. He lets us go our own way because sometimes that the best way we learn lessons. We have to be aware of our need for Him since, although He loves us so much, he won’t impose Himself on us against our will. Sometimes It’s only when our own selfish plans and dreams come to nothing that we turn to Him. But He is still there, waiting, watching and hoping we will return to Him. ‘There is more joy in Heaven over one sinner who repents than 99 who do not need to repent’. What joyful reconciliation when we come back to our Father.
The greatest act of reconciliation is the one that takes place on this altar every time we celebrate the Mass. God the Father celebrates His son’s act of forgiveness as we meet Him and feed on His body and Blood. We truly become His children.
Today is Mothering Sunday [you don’t need me to tell you – flowers are more expenses this weekend and the price of meals at restaurants rocket! and we celebrate in loving remembrance our parents, especially our mothers. Mothers tend to forgive their children more readily than others may do. But how ever much they do, it is nothing to the depth of forgiveness that God has for us. As we stand around His altar and feed on His body, say a heartfelt thank you to the loving Father who loves us and forgives us no matter how far we stray.