Lent 4 “C”
March 31, 2019 by
David Jackson in
Reflections on Sunday Gospels
From Lost to the Loving Father
Introduction: Today’s Gospel story is the focus of this Sunday. It is a story about a family. It appears to be a single parent family (the mother is not mentioned). It is difficult to know how long a time span it took for this story to take place. It is a familiar story that we wish to hear newly. The three main persons in the story are the father and his two sons. We might listen to the story to understand which of the three we most identify with.
Homily: (In the past I have used this Gospel for a dialogue homily: asking questions. Thus it’s form.)
What problems did you hear in this family’s story?
What difficulties does the young son have? (He’s a black sheep. He disobeys his father. He breaks his father’s heart. Some even say that to want his share of the inheritance is equivalent to wishing his father dead. ) Do you think the father would have been angry with him? What happens to him once he leaves? (Wastes his money, loses it all. Has to take on work taking care of pigs [unclean animals for the Jews, didn’t eat pork, against their religion]. He is hungry. Famine. Would even like to eat the food of the pigs. ) What brings about a change in him? (Being hungry. Thoughts of his father. ; ;Thoughts of the servants in his father’s house that have plenty of food.) What does he do? (Confession of sin: I have sinned against God and against you, I no longer deserve to be called your son, treat me as one of the hired servants. He “breaks away” and heads back.
On his arrival. What is the Father’s response? What other kind of responses might the Father have given? I remember that some years back a Spring Breaker was involved in an auto accident. His parents came to make sure that their name was not listed as the responsible person. They also learned that the boy had given his grandmother’s name when injured. They wished to remove her name as well. His life style had led them to totally disown him. This father is not like that. What are the signs of the father’s forgiveness? (ring, new clothes, sandals, even more important embrace and kiss on the neck, rejoicing, kill fatted calf, music and dancing.)
What difficulties does the older son have? (Jealousy, anger. He had lived his whole life doing what the father expected, being faithful.) But what about his attitude? Had he done his duty with a good spirit do you think? (His own words condemn him: “all these many years I have ‘slaved’ for you. ) Here we have an example of those people who live life with the grind it out attitude of lifeless obedience. There is nothing of the joy and happiness or freedom which characterizes the faithful son or daughter. He has a problem with his brother. Notice how he changes the facts. He doesn’t say, “my brother”. He says, “but ‘your son.'” My father used to call me his son when I was good, but to my mother he would say “your son” did such and such¼when I did something I should not have done. There is something of family dynamics here. The older son accuses his brother falsely. The story teller told us that he squandered his money on dissolute living. The elder sons says, “having gone through your property with loose women.” The contrast in Spanish is even better. Betweenuna vida disordenada, and y con prostitutas. The older son is clearly resentful (resentimiento) of his brother. He has slaved under obedience to his father. He becomes angry with the brother and with his father. And what is his father’s response to him? “Well, if that’s the way you are going to act, to hell with you.” That isn’t just another translation, that’s a totally different response than what the father actually does do. The father goes out, he invites him in to the festival celebrating the dead brother now restored to life. Does the older son go in?
We can perhaps identify with parts of this story. I personally identify with the younger son, but I also identify with the older son. But in the liturgy this morning we are confronted with another reality. In the second reading we heard that we are called to be a new creature in Jesus. He has reconciled us to God. He has been like the father in the story. But then Paul tells the Corinthians and us, that the task of reconciliation is ours. We are to be reconcilers. We are to find ourselves in the father. We all live in families. We all have problems, with brothers, sisters, parents, grand parents, brother in laws, sister in laws, uncles, aunts, mother in laws, father in laws, etc. Do we also have the experience of being reconcilers? Are we like the father? This is the challenge of the story for us. We are forgiven: thanks be to God. But we are to be reconcilers like the Father. God help us.