4th Sunday of Lent
Reading I: Joshua 5:9-12 II: 2Cor 5:17-21
1 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him.
2 And the Pharisees and the scribes murmured, saying, "This man receives sinners and eats with them."
3 So he told them this parable:
11 And he said, "There was a man who had two sons;
12 and the younger of them said to his father, 'Father, give me the share of property that falls to me.' And he divided his living between them.
13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took his journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in loose living.
14 And when he had spent everything, a great famine arose in that country, and he began to be in want.
15 So he went and joined himself to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed swine.
16 And he would gladly have fed on the pods that the swine ate; and no one gave him anything.
17 But when he came to himself he said, 'How many of my father's hired servants have bread enough and to spare, but I perish here with hunger!
18 I will arise 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 as one of your hired servants."'
20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was yet at a distance, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.
21 And 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 servants, 'Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet;
23 and bring the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and make merry;
24 for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.' And they began to make merry.
25 "Now his elder son was in the field; and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing.
26 And he called one of the servants and asked what this meant.
27 And he said to him, 'Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has received him safe and sound.'
28 But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him,
29 but he answered his father, 'Lo, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command; yet you never gave me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends.
30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your living with harlots, you killed for him the fatted calf!'
31 And he said to him, 'Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.
32 It was fitting to make merry and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.'"
This passage has been commonly referred to as "the prodigal son," or "the lost son." It was actually about both sons being lost in life. Both were treated very generously by the father; one took what he had and wasted it all, while the other was not even aware of how much he owned and thus not happy with the way the father treated him.
(v.2) This verse demonstrates the tendency of human beings to protect themselves by drawing a line between "righteous people" and "wrong people." However, we often create our own self-righteousness by making others wrong for what they did and rejecting them.
(v.11) Two sons: Provides a ground for comparison.
(v.12) The father just did, without question, what the younger son had asked of him; he had no judgment of what the son was trying to do.
(vv.13-16) A series of wrong actions, one leading to another. While Jews could not eat pork, joining the Gentiles to feed swine and eating their food were probably not the son's choices but rather the consequences of his earlier wrong decision for his own life.
(vv.17-18) "When he came to himself" means he was very present to how he had gotten himself to the current situation, thus he could clearly see the relationship with his father, as well as the generosity of this man. He instantly saw a solution.
(vv.20-24) The father apparently thought of nothing but the fact that the person off in the distance was his son. He had no judgment about what had happened and just wanted to welcome his son back to the full status of a son, which was symbolized by the robe, ring, and sandals.
(vv.28-31) The elder son blamed the father for mistreating him; he did not realize that he had an ownership of the estate and could treat himself any which way he wished.
One Main Point
Like the father in this parable, God has given each of us so much including the freedom to choose our own life, and He always knows us as His sons and daughters. When we have been on a wrong path and chosen to come back, He has no judgment of what we have done, and is always glad to take us back with love.
Seeing how the lost son found the way out for his own life, when facing an undesired situation how can I be present to my own mistake, so I can clearly see myself in my relationship with God and others? What am I to do, to put my life back to where it belongs so I no longer have to struggle?
The father in this parable took his son back as if nothing had been wrong with him. Can I think of many situations in which I made someone wrong for what he or she did and then refused my love for him or her?
Like the elder son, I might have judged and blamed others including God, as if they were responsible for how I feel about myself. How do I take ownership of, and become responsible for my life?