Gospel Reading: Luke 15:1-3,11-32 (alternate reading for Year A: John 9:1-41)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:
The merciful Father who welcome home his lost son
Jesus illustrates this passover from slavery to sin and condemnation to freedom and new life in Christ with the longest parable recorded in the Gospels (Luke 15:11-32). What is the main point of Jesus' story about two ungrateful sons and their extravagant loving father? Is it the contrast between a grudging obedient son and a rebellious son who had wished his father was dead? Or the warm reception given to a spendthrift son and the cold reception given by the eldest son?
Jesus does contrast the eldest son's cold and aloof reception for
his errant brother with the father's warm embrace and lavish
homecoming party for his repentant son. While the errant son had
wasted his father's money, his father, nonetheless, maintained
unbroken love for his son. The son, while he was away, learned a
lot about himself. And he realized that his father had given him
love which he had not returned. He had yet to learn about the
depth of his father's love for him.
His deep humiliation at finding himself obliged to feed on the husks of pigs and his reflection on all he had lost, led to his repentance and decision to declare himself guilty before his father. While he hoped for reconciliation with his father, he could not have imagined a full restoration of relationship. The father did not need to speak words of forgiveness to his son; his actions spoke more loudly and clearly! The beautiful robe, the ring, and the festive banquet symbolize the new life - pure, worthy, and joyful - of every person who returns to God.
Forgiven and restored to new life
The prodigal could not return to the garden of innocence, but he was welcomed and reinstated as a son who had been missed much and greatly loved by his father. The errant son's dramatic change from grief and guilt to forgiveness and restoration express in picture-language the resurrection from the dead which Jesus makes possible to everyone who believes in him, a rebirth to new life from death.
The parable also contrasts mercy and its opposite -
unforgiveness. The father who had been wronged, was forgiving. But
the eldest son, who had not been wronged, was unforgiving. His
unforgiveness turns into spiteful pride and contempt for his
brother. And his resentment leads to his isolation and
estrangement from the community of forgiven sinners.
God's mercy and kindness knows no bounds
In this parable Jesus gives a vivid picture of God and what God is like. God is truly kinder than any of us. He does not lose hope or give up when we stray from him. He is always on the lookout for those who have a change of heart and want to return. He rejoices in finding the lost and in welcoming them home. Do you know the joy of repentance and the restoration of relationship as a son or daughter of your heavenly Father?
"Lord Jesus, may I never doubt your love nor take for granted the mercy you have shown to me. Fill me with your transforming love that I may be merciful as you are merciful."
2 My soul makes its boast in the LORD; let the afflicted hear and be glad.
3 O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together!
4 I sought the LORD, and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears.
5 Look to him, and be radiant; so your faces shall never be ashamed.
6 This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.
7 The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them.
8 O taste and see that the LORD is good! Happy is the man who takes refuge in him!
Daily Quote from the early church fathers: The Father redeems his son with a kiss, by Peter Chrysologus (400-450 AD)
"'He fell on his neck and kissed him.' This is how the father judges and corrects his wayward son and gives him not beatings but kisses. The power of love overlooked the transgressions. The father redeemed the sins of his son by his kiss, and covered them by his embrace, in order not to expose the crimes or humiliate the son. The father so healed the son's wounds as not to leave a scar or blemish upon him. 'Blessed are they,' says Scripture 'whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered' (Romans 4:7)." (excerpt from SERMON 3)[Peter Chrysologus, 400-450 AD, was a renowned preacher and bishop of Ravena in the 5th century]
Scripture quotations from Common
Bible: Revised Standard Version of the Bible,
copyright 1973, and Ignatius Edition of the
Revised Standard Version of the Bible,
copyright 2006, by the Division of Christian
Education of the National Council of the
Churches of Christ in the United States of
America. Used by permission. All rights
reserved. Citation references for quotes
from the writings of the early church fathers
can be found here.
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