Fourth Sunday of Lent (C)
The Prodigal Son

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The Return of the Prodigal Son - by REMBRANDT Harmenszoon van Rijn - from the Hermitage, Saint Petersburg


Luke 15:1-3, 11-32 (C)

The tax collectors and the sinners were all gathering around Jesus to hear Him, at which the Pharisees and the Scribes murmured, "This man welcomes sinners and eats with them". Then He addressed this Parable to them: "A man had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, 'Father, give me the share of the estate that is coming to me'. So the father divided up the property. Some days later this younger son collected all his belongings and went off to a distant land, where he squandered his money on dissolute living. After he had spent everything, a great famine broke out in that country and he was in dire need. So he attached himself to one of the propertied class of the place, who sent him to his farm to take care of the pigs. He longed to fill his belly with the husks that were fodder for the pigs, but no one made a move to give him anything. Coming to his senses at last, he said: 'How many hired hands at my father's place have more than enough to eat, while here I am starving! I will break away and return to my father, and say to him, "Father, I have sinned against God and against you; I no longer deserve to be called your son. Treat me like one of your hired hands"'. With that he set off for his father's house. While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him and was deeply moved. He ran out to meet him, threw his arms around his neck, and kissed him. The son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against God and against you; I no longer deserve to be called your son'. The father said to his servants: 'Quick! bring out the finest robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and shoes on his feet. Take the fatted calf and kill it. Let us eat and celebrate because this son of mine was dead and has come back to life. He was lost and is found'. Then the celebration began.

"Meanwhile the elder son was out on the land. As he neared the house on his way home, he heard the sound of music and dancing. He called one of the servants and asked him the reason for the dancing and the music. The servant answered, 'Your brother is home, and your father has killed the fatted calf because he has him back in good health'. The son grew angry at this and would not go in; but his father came out and began to plead with him.

"He said in reply to his father: 'For years now I have slaved for you. I never disobeyed one of your orders, yet you never gave me so much as a kid goat to celebrate with my friends. Then, when this son of yours returns after having gone through your property with loose women, you kill the fatted calf for him'.

"'My son', replied the father, 'you are with me always, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice! This brother of yours was dead, and has come back to life. He was lost, and is found'".


The Prodigal Son

by Father Charles Irvin, M.Div, J.D.

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crucifixion3.jpg (1600 bytes)There are three characters in this Parable that Jesus is asking us to examine. Actually Jesus is presenting them to us so that we might take a look at ourselves in them. How does each one of these characters mirror us, reflect back to us our attitudes and condition relative to God? Parables invite us to enter into the actors and see ourselves in them.


star4.gif (851 bytes)The first is the younger son. It's important for us to pay attention to the fundamental reality in which we must see ourselves. And here the first condition to look at is his radical departure from God our Father. When he asks for his inheritance, he isn't just asking for a big chunk of money. He is in effect saying to his father: "I'm treating you as if you're dead. And I want to get NOW what I'm supposed to receive after you're dead".

How many people do you know who live and act as if God doesn't matter? As if God might as well be dead? And how often have we had an "attitude" toward God that was awfully close to that? An attitude in which we have in effect said to God: "Drop dead. I'm getting on with what I can get out of life as if You don't even exist". If we're honest, we should admit that we have had moments of total disregard for God and treated Him as if He doesn't exist, as if He were dead.

The second thing we need to see is that when we walk away from God, while at the same time taking everything we can get from Him, we end up in the slop with the pigs. Not only that but we end up in a state of Spiritual Poverty, and with an Unrelieved Hunger in our Souls that all of the pleasures of this world cannot satisfy, no matter how much we have filled our Appetites to the full with what the pigs eat, no matter how much we have wallowed in their slop.

Finally, in order to enter into recovery and overcome our bloated addictions to the drugging effect of this world's Narcosis, we must admit that we were Wrong. This is the hardest thing in the world for many or our contemporaries to do. Countless numbers of people simply CANNOT admit that they've done anything Wrong. And if they begin to suspect that they're Wrong they redefine what they've done and present it in a way that's not Sinful. In other words, they define Sin away, redefine reality, and cast their attitudes in new ways such that they don't need to admit they're Wrong.

It's called denial; all addicted people live in denial the way pigs live in slop. They simply tell themselves that the slop smells like perfume and anyone who says that it's slop is an idiot and a fool.

But this younger son somehow came to his senses and began to recognize the Truth. It was then, and only then, that he was able to come back into touch with reality and recognize, #1, that he could Trust his father to Forgive him, and #2 that he needed to go and openly admit to his father that he was Wrong and ask for his father's Forgiveness. This required Humility . . . along with Faith, Hope and Courage. It required a radical overthrow of his previously held attitudes and convictions. It also required that he would have to overcome his denial and surrender; he would have to reject his own independence and accept dependence upon his father's Love.

Do you realize all of this is required to make a Good Confession? Perhaps that's why not many people go to Confession these days. Too many people are looking for cheap Grace. Too many people are looking for a cheap and easy way of tossing off a superficial "I'm sorry" to God and then return to their old ways, ways which in effect treat God's Love so cheaply that they might as well tell God to drop dead, that they'll pay more attention to Him when they die.


star4.gif (851 bytes)Next we need to pay attention to the elder brother, the one whose righteousness was cold, hard, and even bitter. Like many of the Pharisees who knew Jesus, they resented the generosity of God's Love as it was manifested in the life and attitudes of Jesus. They resented His Generosity in Forgiving Sinners.

But what we should note is that Jesus only Forgave those who were truly Penitent, those who genuinely admitted that they needed to Trust God's Merciful Forgiveness, overcame their Independence, overcame their Denial and then surrendered to God's Love. This is something the elder brother could not do. He retained his Independence, even giving his generous father a lecture on being too easy with his younger son. You see, for all of the elder brother's righteousness, he remained fiercely Independent of his father's Love. He even lived in Denial of this own need for his father's Tender, Loving Mercies.


star4.gif (851 bytes)Finally we need to see ourselves in the attitude and Love of the father. What sort of conditions do we place on our Willingness to Forgive others? What sort of attitudes do we have in our Hearts that put limits on Love and Forgiveness, that put limits on God's Generosity and Infinite Capacities to bring back the Dead into Life?

You see, it is the father's Character and Attitudes that we should use to measure ourselves, use to measure the capacities in our Hearts and Souls to be God-like in our Love, Compassion, Care and Concern in Loving others.

For us, however, living in the culture in which we presently find ourselves, the Critical Aspect to seriously look at in this Parable is the point that in order to be Forgiven one must first recognize Evil and Sin, recognize it for what it is, admit to ourselves and to God that we have sinned, and theneucharist5.jpg (44177 bytes) genuinely go to our Father and ASK for Forgiveness. This is the critical movement that is so lacking in so very many people's Souls these days. For we are a people who live in great Denial. As Scott Peck wrote in his classic book of several decades ago, we are a People of the Lie. We live in Lying to ourselves by telling ourselves that Sin doesn't exist, that we have done no Wrong, that everybody's "Doing It" and so it is okay. "God will understand", we tell ourselves, and thus Absolve ourselves from the need to admit anything to Him. That's called Denial, and it's holding far too many folks these days in its Seductive and Addictive grip. Consequently they live trapped lives far removed from that which will give their Souls the Food for which they hunger and the strength that they can derive from it to live lives in genuine Freedom.

For what God our Father wants for us above all else is to walk in the Glorious Freedom of the Sons and Daughters of God. And to prove it and give it to us, He sent us His only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ. Go to Him and ask Him to help you ask your Heavenly Father to give you that Food for which your Soul hungers so much.


Meditations on the
Prodigal Son

by Father George Rutler
Pontifical Doctorate in Sacred Theology

Father Rutler examines one of the Paradigms of Christian living, the story of the Prodigal Son, which is really the tale of the Fathomless Mercy of the Prodigalís Father. The story shows how one is much more grateful for having been forgiven much, like the younger son, as opposed to being forgiven little, like the faithful older son. The Mystery of Salvation is played out in our Hearts, and Blessed is the man who appropriates its meaning, taking it to heart and producing the Fruition of Virtue. MP3 recording courtesy EWTN Library.