March 31, 2019

Luke 15:1   Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

Luke 15:3   So he told them this parable:

Luke 15:11   Then Jesus said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them. 13 A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. 14 When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. 16 He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. 17 But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! 18 I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.” ’ 20 So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. 21 Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; 24 for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.

Luke 15:25   “Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. 27 He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.’ 28 Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’ 31 Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’”
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In response to the grumbling of the Pharisees, Jesus tells three parables, the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son. For brevity’s sake only the parable of the lost son is read this Sunday.

Our reading is a
parable. As such it is meant to destabilise the hearers and put them “in crisis”, literally in the critical position of having to make a judgement.

Within Luke, there is a tendency to use disreputable people to illustrate the Good News, to the discomfort of the officially religious people, e.g Zacchaeus, the good thief. God’s choosing of the Israelites/Jews and the extension of his election Gentiles, are the issues in the parable.

The depth of the degradation of the younger son is spelt out in vv11-16:

vv.11-12 Both are sons. The younger son tactfully omits the rest of his sentence “when you flake out”. Heirs were entitled to use the family capital to make money but not to alienate it. The younger son is, as result,
no longer legally a son.
Famine is frequent in this period; it speeds up the degradation of them son. The son does not turn to the network of Jewish charity in the diaspora available to fellow Israelites in need.
He has cut himself off ethnically.
Pigs are unclean and forbidden in Judaism.
Finally the younger son has cut himself off religiously. His isolation is complete.



  1. 1. Like many a parable, this story makes its point in what seems to be unfair: the spendthrift son is rewarded and the elder son is hurt and angry. Jesus is telling us that both sons did not recognise the free gift of love offered by their father. Love is a free gift, not something we earn by our goodness. When have you experienced this truth in the love you have received from others? When has the experience of human love prompted you to reflect on God’s love for you?
  2. 2.After some time the younger son ‘came to himself’ and returned home. Where and when have you experienced a homecoming after a time of exile and alienation? What helped you to come to yourself and make that journey home?
  3. 3.The older son resented the welcome given to the younger son after his wandering and dissolute life. This contrasts with the welcome the father gave the younger son. Perhaps you have experienced these differing attitudes in yourself when people you knew “came to themselves”. How did you move beyond those initial feelings?


It could be said that there are two important journeys in the great parable of the Prodigal Son. One is that of the younger brother who realises the foolishness of his ways and turns towards home not sure what to expect and certainly not expecting what he finds there.

The other journey is, at least in distance, much shorter. It is that of the older brother who remains out in the fields unable to make the brief trip home because of his rage and anger.

In Lent the focus is usually on the long return trip home but it might well be that for many of us the real challenge is to recognise in ourselves the desire to limit God’s mercy to those we consider worthy.

Such a mindset may still keep us away from our true home with the Father.

Lord, we thank you for people who have taught us what true forgiveness is - spouses, parents, faithful friends, a parish community. We thought forgiveness meant having to say to the one we had offended, “I have sinned against heaven and against you,” and being treated as a hired servant rather than as family. We know now that forgiveness is something totally different, it is seeing the one who offended us from a long way off, running to him, and clasping him in our arms, and kissing him tenderly, bringing our best robe to put on him, putting a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet and having a feast, a celebration, because one who was dead has come back to life and one who was lost is found.

Lord, we pray today for those who are facing death and who are afraid, that they may find peace in the confidence that when they die they go home, and you will run to meet them, will clasp them in your arms and kiss them tenderly, angels will bring out the best robe and put it on them; they will have died, but have entered into life, have been lost for a while, but are now found forever.

Michel de Verteuil