Tag Archives: Prodigal Son

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time, cycle C

1st Reading – Exodus 32: 7-11, 13-14

In this story we find Moses foreshadowing the role of Jesus as a mediator before God on our behalf. Jesus like Moses prays on the cross: “Father, forgive them.” Here is a God who is willing to forgive even though his anger is great at the evil that has been done. And, of course, we believe that Jesus shows us the fullness of the real God – the visible image of the invisible God.  (Reginald Fuller, “ Scripture in Depth,” http://liturgy.slu.edu )

This event is an example of how religions can confuse the voice of the people with the voice of God.  Any religion has the capacity to produce a “calf” to meet the needs of the people who are in opposition to the will of God.  In the Israelites’ case, all it resulted in was a compromise that threatened the integrity of their relationship with God  (Word & Worship, Birmingham, p. 472).  How often do we place our needs in the way of God’s will?  Maybe more often than we think.  Yet our God listens to us.  Moses intercedes for his people, and God hears.

Notice too how God tells Moses they are “your people”, like an angry mother telling a father what happened with the children while he was away at work.  Does the angry mother’s love ever diminish for her children?  She is there for them anyway and loves them completely, no matter what they do.  How much more God is.

2nd Reading – 1 Timothy 1: 12-17

“Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”  What does this personally mean to you?

The Pauline authorship of this letter and the rest of the so-called pastoral letters (2 Timothy, Titus) have been disputed since the 19th century. The pseudonymous author for these letters wrote as if he were Paul and included valuable information about the apostle and his ministry. It is emphasizing that Saul-Paul was like the elder brother of the gospel story who had been desirous of punishing the ‘brothers’ he deemed to be unfaithful and heretical. By the glorious grace of the God he found in the Risen Christ, he recognized the error of his ways. He began knowing God in an entirely new way, a way that leads to new life, not judgment and death.  (Celebration, Sept. 2001)

How does this passage lead us into the parables of lost sheep, lost coin, lost son?

“There is something good in the worst of us and something bad in the best of us.” We may not be Paul, a former blasphemer and ‘thug’ – we may not be worshipping molten calves in a frenzy – but we can all be overwhelmingly grateful for the merciful love of God revealed to us in Jesus Christ.  Repentance is always the start of good news.  (Kavanaugh, “The Word Engaged” http://liturgy.slu.edu)

The Gospel – Luke 15: 1-32

Here is the whole chapter from Luke on the ‘lost and found’. It is sometimes called ‘the gospel within the gospel’ because it so profoundly shows us the essence of the good news we find in Christ Jesus.  What do find good in these parables? What do you find challenging?

From Living Liturgy, 2004:

This parable reveals the dying and rising of the paschal mystery at

work. The prodigal son is brought to repentance because he is in dire need; he is “dying from hunger.” There is nothing he does to deserve the father’s response except return. Yet, his decision to repent (turn from death) is met with warm welcoming love and feasting – at least from the father. For all of us, the invitation to repent is always there – to turn from dying-ways to new life and feasting.  What can bring us – and the elder son – to the feasting?

Notice also, that sin is ‘going away to a distant land’ – it is about losing who and where we are called to be. Repentance is about ‘coming back to our senses.’

Sin is an alienation from ourselves, like the son who no longer deserves to be called his father’s son.  Sin affects our relationships – with the father – and with others (the elder son). But in the father, we find a love that bridges the gap.

From John Pilch, “Historical Cultural Context”, http://liturgy.slu.edu :

In this culture fathers were greatly discouraged from distributing inheritance before their death. The younger son acts very shamefully by effectively wishing his father dead. The elder son is no better. He makes no effort to reconcile his father and brother as the culture demanded. When he ‘comes back to himself’ and repents, the younger son is willing to become a servant and take the rejection and physical abuse that the village will heap on him for his shameful behavior. In this, he does show some measure of honor. But then the father acts totally out of cultural character. He runs (very inappropriate for an elder) the gauntlet the village has prepared for the wayward son. He publicly forgives the son by kissing him, giving him the best robe (which certainly would be the father’s), putting a ring on his finger (a sign of trust), and sandals on his feet (a sign of a free man not a slave). Killing the fatted calf means that the whole village will be invited to come and accept this son and celebrate. (This size calf could feed 100 people.) And then, what does the elder son do? Instead of honoring his father’s wishes, he publicly insults and humiliates his father. Yet, the father also goes out to him (another shameful thing for the father to do). The parable ends here with the father pleading with his son . . . what did the elder son do? What would you do?

A Look at the Prodigal Son Parable

Prodigal son

Opening Prayer

O God, Our Loving Parent,

At times your love seems impossible to us,

but with you it is ALL possible.

For where love is, there you are.

May we find your love in all things,

and be instruments of your love

in the world.  AMEN

Henri Nouwen says we need to be attentive to moments that may move us to new directions, to refind balance, and to remain fully alive.  These spiritual signs have the following characteristics:

  1. Simple not complicated
  2. Persistent
  3. Seemingly impossible
  4. Always about others as well as ourselves (Home Tonight, p. 12)

From Living Liturgy, 2004:

This parable reveals the dying and rising of the paschal mystery at work. The prodigal son is brought to repentance because he is in dire need; he is “dying from hunger.” There is nothing he does to deserve the father’s response except return. Yet, his decision to repent (turn from death) is met with warm, welcoming love and feasting – at least from the father. For all of us, the invitation to repent is always there – to turn from dying-ways to new life and feasting. What can bring us – and the elder son – to the feasting?

Notice also, that sin is ‘going away to a distant land’ – it is about losing who and where we are called to be. Repentance is about ‘coming back to our senses.’ Sin is an alienation from ourselves, like the son who no longer deserves to be called his father’s son.  Sin affects our relationships – with the father – and with others (the elder son). In the father, we find a love that bridges the gap.

From John Pilch, “Historical Cultural Context”, http://liturgy.slu.edu :

In this culture fathers were greatly discouraged from distributing inheritance before their death. The younger son acts very shamefully by effectively wishing his father dead. The elder son is no better. He makes no effort to reconcile his father and brother as the culture demanded. When he ‘comes back to himself’ and repents, the younger son is willing to become a servant and take the rejection and physical abuse that the village will heap on him for his shameful behavior. In this, he does show some measure of honor. But then, the father acts totally out of cultural character. He runs (very inappropriate for an elder).  He publicly forgives the son by kissing him, giving him the best robe (which certainly would be the father’s), putting a ring on his finger (a sign of trust), and sandals on his feet (a sign of a free man not a slave). Killing the fatted calf means that the whole village will be invited to come and accept this son and celebrate. (This size calf could feed 100 people.) And then, what does the elder son do? Instead of honoring his father’s wishes, he publicly insults and humiliates his father. Yet, the father also goes out to him (another shameful thing for the father to do). The parable ends here with the father pleading with his son . . .what did the elder son do? What would you do?

The father – God – doesn’t act the way we think he’s going to act.  We can never put God in a box!  There is nothing we can do that would get God to stop loving us!

This is one of Jesus’ most powerful and best known parables.  With which character do you identify?

From Good Goats:  Healing Our Image of God by Dennis, Sheila & Matthew Linn:

This story is Jesus’ answer to the Pharisees who ask why he welcomes tax collectors or other unrepentant sinners, and even eats with them.  Jesus portrays the prodigal as the greatest possible sinner.  Was he repentant?  Scripture scholars indicate that the prodigal’s motive is most likely self-interest.  Although the words of his prepared speech sound like repentance, he composes them after observing that we would get a lot more to eat if he were back in his father’s house.  The son regrets that he has lost all the money he got from his father, but it is unlikely that he has yet repented of breaking his father’s heart.  The emphasis is on the father.  The father forgives whether the son is repentant or not.   This is echoed with the older brother.  The lost son, the lost sheep and the lost coin all represent the unrepentant sinner; God takes the initiative to seek out what is lost and unrepentant, rather than waiting for the lost one to repent and come back.

Richard Rohr talks about the “Deuteronomic Code mentality”.  That is:  I sin, God punishes me, I repent, God loves and rewards me.  But stories such as Paul’s conversion or the prodigal son turn this code upside down:  I sin, I am unrepentant, I am loved and rewarded by God, this heals me so I can repent.  Nothing is earned…God’s love (grace) is a free gift  (p. 59-62).

“All human nature vigorously resists grace because grace changes us and the change is painful.”  The Habit of Being, Flannery O’Connor

“But Rembrandt, who showed me the Father in utmost vulnerability, made me come to the awareness that my final vocation is indeed to become like the Father and to live out his divine compassion in my daily life, ”  Nouwen, The Return of the Prodigal Son, p. 121)

 

Happy Father’s Day! By Kris Rooney

god-the-father

This Sunday is Father’s Day, a day to celebrate all men who fill the role of father.  Maybe you are having a barbecue or going to a baseball game.  Maybe you are visiting a cemetery, if your father is celebrating on the other side of life.  Maybe you are making a phone call to a dad who is far away.  However you spend it, it is a day to stop and think about what being a father means to you.  What better example than God as Father.

Of course, God isn’t just Father.  God is lots of things.   God is Mother too.  God is love.  God is the air we breathe.  God is good.   God is such mystery…mighty, awesome, omni-everything…that it is hard to really put words in describing God except through images.  Even St. Augustine of Hippo said, “To reach out a little toward God with the mind is a great blessedness; yet to understand is wholly impossible.”  And he wrote a whole book about God!  We all have our own images of God.

I think Father’s Day may be hard for those who may not have such a great relationship with their father.  Especially for them, God as Father is a wonderful image.  God is the Father who will always be loving, will always be listening, will always BE.  As Michael Downey in Altogether Gift:  A Trinitarian Spirituality says, “God is the life that pours itself forth:  constantly, abundantly, excessively, never-to-stop-coming-as-gift.”  Now that is a Father who loves.

Remember the story of the Prodigal Son?    When the son returns home, the father runs TOWARD him, arms outstretched, as if he were waiting all that time just to welcome him home.  That is God as Father.  His son had squandered all of his money, lived a less-than-pristine life and probably never wrote home to talk about any of it.  The father only reached out in love.  That is God.

prodigal_son

So Happy Father’s Day to all fathers, and their children who make them so.  May we celebrate God as Father, since Father’s Day is also the Feast of the Most Holy Trinity.  However you celebrate, know that God as Father is forever reaching out to us in infinite love.

If you are interested in exploring more about your image of God, consider reading Good Goats:  Healing Our Image of God by Dennis, Sheila and Matthew Linn.  This will be next book group read at our parish.  Check the bulletin for details, or contact me at kafe@stkateriparish.org.

Commentary for this Upcoming Sunday Readings: 24th Sunday of Ordinary Time, cycle C

1st Reading – Exodus 32: 7-11, 13-14

In this story we find Moses foreshadowing the role of Jesus as a mediator before God on our behalf. Jesus like Moses prays on the cross: “Father, forgive them.” Here is a God who is willing to forgive even though his anger is great at the evil that has been done. And, of course, we believe that Jesus shows us the fullness of the real God – the visible image of the invisible God.  (Reginald Fuller, “ Scripture in Depth,” http://liturgy.slu.edu )

This event is an example of how religions can confuse the voice of the people with the voice of God.  Any religion has the capacity to produce a “calf” to meet the needs of the people who are in opposition to the will of God.  In the Israelites’ case, all it resulted in was a compromise that threatened the integrity of their relationship with God  (Word & Worship, Birmingham, p. 472).  How often do we place our needs in the way of God’s will?  Maybe more often than we think.  Yet our God listens to us.  Moses intercedes for his people, and God hears.

Notice too how God tells Moses they are “your people”, like an angry mother telling a father what happened with the children while he was away at work.  Does the angry mother’s love ever diminish for her children?  She is there for them anyway and loves them completely, no matter what they do.  How much more God is.

2nd Reading – 1 Timothy 1: 12-17

“Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”  What does this personally mean to you?

The Pauline authorship of this letter and the rest of the so-called pastoral letters (2 Timothy, Titus) have been disputed since the 19th century. The pseudonymous author for these letters wrote as if he were Paul and included valuable information about the apostle and his ministry. It is emphasizing that Saul-Paul was like the elder brother of the gospel story who had been desirous of punishing the ‘brothers’ he deemed to be unfaithful and heretical. By the glorious grace of the God he found in the Risen Christ, he recognized the error of his ways. He began knowing God in an entirely new way, a way that leads to new life, not judgment and death.  (Celebration, Sept. 2001)

How does this passage lead us into the parables of lost sheep, lost coin, lost son?

“There is something good in the worst of us and something bad in the best of us.” We may not be Paul, a former blasphemer and ‘thug’ – we may not be worshipping molten calves in a frenzy – but we can all be overwhelmingly grateful for the merciful love of God revealed to us in Jesus Christ.  Repentance is always the start of good news.  (Kavanaugh, “The Word Engaged” http://liturgy.slu.edu)

The Gospel – Luke 15: 1-32

Here is the whole chapter from Luke on the ‘lost and found’. It is sometimes called ‘the gospel within the gospel’ because it so profoundly shows us the essence of the good news we find in Christ Jesus.  What do find good in these parables? What do you find challenging?

From Living Liturgy, 2004:

This parable reveals the dying and rising of the paschal mystery at work. The prodigal son is brought to repentance because he is in dire need; he is “dying from hunger.” There is nothing he does to deserve the father’s response except return. Yet, his decision to repent (turn from death) is met with warm welcoming love and feasting – at least from the father. For all of us, the invitation to repent is always there – to turn from dying-ways to new life and feasting.  What can bring us – and the elder son – to the feasting?

Notice also, that sin is ‘going away to a distant land’ – it is about losing who and where we are called to be. Repentance is about ‘coming back to our senses.’  Sin is an alienation from ourselves, like the son who no longer deserves to be called his father’s son.  Sin affects our relationships – with the father – and with others (the elder son). But in the father, we find a love that bridges the gap.

From John Pilch, “Historical Cultural Context”, http://liturgy.slu.edu :

In this culture fathers were greatly discouraged from distributing inheritance before their death. The younger son acts very shamefully by effectively wishing his father dead. The elder son is no better. He makes no effort to reconcile his father and brother as the culture demanded. When he ‘comes back to himself’ and repents, the younger son is willing to become a servant and take the rejection and physical abuse that the village will heap on him for his shameful behavior. In this, he does show some measure of honor. But then the father acts totally out of cultural character. He runs (very inappropriate for an elder) the gauntlet the village has prepared for the wayward son. He publicly forgives the son by kissing him, giving him the best robe (which certainly would be the father’s), putting a ring on his finger (a sign of trust), and sandals on his feet (a sign of a free man not a slave). Killing the fatted calf means that the whole village will be invited to come and accept this son and celebrate. (This size calf could feed 100 people.) And then, what does the elder son do? Instead of honoring his father’s wishes, he publicly insults and humiliates his father. Yet, the father also goes out to him (another shameful thing for the father to do). The parable ends here with the father pleading with his son . . . what did the elder son do? What would you do? 

A Prodigal Son Reflection by Debbie O’Brien

I am the oldest in my family.  Almost anyone who meets me guesses that before they learn the truth!  So the gospel story of the Prodigal Son has always been a bit of a challenge for me.  I’ve always identified with the older brother and struggled with the justice of the “compassionate father’s” approach to the prodigal younger son.  

But in the last couple of years, as I‘ve gotten older, I’ve started to think a bit differently.  I expect that this change has also coincided with a change in the dynamics of my family…my father has died, my mother became rather frail and now resides in a nursing home…and the younger siblings have all been pretty involved in the challenges of the new reality of our being middle aged, adult children.  

Which brings me back to the gospel story.  I have to say that through this life and family journey I’ve been reminded in many ways of the frailty of all of us.  Our father died when he shouldn’t have, our mother has in essence given up….we are all seeking to continue to live meaningful lives…and I have made many missteps along the way.  It is hard for me to say that…but it is true.  As the cliché goes…I know so much less now that I am older than I used to know.  

And so, I hear the gospel story a little differently now.  I admit I still feel a bit badly for the older son, but I also feel more compassion for the younger son who tried to have an independent life (even if he went about it in a young person’s headstrong way).  And I don’t find the father’s welcoming spirit quite so surprising or aggravating anymore.  I find it rather comforting.  I wonder if that is because as I’ve tried, with my brother and sisters, to navigate the demands of responsibility and caring, I’ve stumbled and lost my way.  But time and time again, I’ve been comforted by a quiet voice that encouraged me, reminded me that I was not alone…and reminded me that if I just recognized it, I had the greatest support and guidance possible as I walk this windy road of life.  

That is how our God, the compassionate father, has helped me, an older sister, grow in the understanding that I’m not that different from the younger brother in this story….and that I really do rely on God’s love and support each and every day!