4th Sunday of Lent

Luke 15:1-3, 11-32

prodigalson rembrandt2Jesus is a wonderful story teller.  I sometimes wonder is this one of the best stories ever told.  It has all the elements of classically good story.  There is failure and success, there is tension, there is hero and villain, there is lost and found, there is admiration and jealousy and, of course there is celebration.

We are drawn to see ourselves in each of the three main characters: the sinful son, the jealous son, the compassionate father. The story prompts us towards the virtues suggested by each of the characters of the father and the two sons.

Our Lenten liturgies and spiritual exercises emphasise the need to ‘turn back’ like the prodigal son.  In him we are reminded of all that we have been given and how important gratitude and thanksgiving is in the life every one of us.  As Cicero once remarked “Gratitude is not only the greatest virtue, but the parent of all other virtues”.  When we have a deep sense of gratitude, of course we will be conscious of our sins – sins against heaven!  Psalm 51 utters the words for us, “What is evil in your sight, I have done”.  Thus begins the process of repentance and leads us to sorrow and shame, confession and being forgiven.


The sin of the elder son is, perhaps, greater insofar as we do not see him ‘turning back’.  Jealousy of others is a sin of all of us, but when that jealousy begrudges another of grace and forgiveness and reward it makes little of the truth in the 2ndReading today – “God made the sinless one (Jesus Christ) into sin (human nature), so that in him we might become the goodness of God”

The prodigal son says to himself “I will arise and go to my father and say “I have sinned against heaven and against you, treat me as one of your hired servants”.  Perhaps he may not have the chance to say these words.  He may have hesitated, been tongue-tied, shameful and afraid.  But the father’s embrace was so strong that it chokes his voice.  Words are unnecessary.            

Our God is a compassionate, loving and forgiving God.  The figure of the father in the parable is a portrait of God our Father.  This figure prompts us to further consideration of ourselves.  To be like God we are called to “be compassionate as our heavenly Father is compassionate.”