Date: Sunday, March 31, 2019
Jesus is a master storyteller. He uses parables to convey the mysteries of the Kingdom of God. Jesus is known as “the teacher.” He is inviting his listeners to enter the story and become part of it. That is certainly true in his telling of the story that is known as “The Prodigal Son.” “Prodigal” means “recklessly wasteful” or “extravagant.” The word can be used in reference to the youngest son, to his father and to the older brother – the eldest son.
“Prodigal” aptly describes the younger son who wastes his inheritance. A fool and his money are soon parted. The younger son is both reckless and careless – he has little concern for his father. He asks for his inheritance before his father even dies. He comes to a change of mind and heart only when he finds himself in dire circumstances eating the slop given to pigs. “Prodigal” describes the father who goes against all cultural norms and gives his son a share of his inheritance. Then the father waits and longs for his youngest son’s return. When he sees his wayward son coming, the father runs to meet him, embraces him, and kisses him – an extravagant show of love! He welcomes the boy back with a robe, a ring, sandals and a banquet. The older brother, when he hears of the merrymaking, refuses to come in. He is “prodigal” too – willing to squander his father’s affection and status as eldest son by imprisoning himself in anger and resentment.
We can identify with the wayward youngest son. There are certainly moments of selfishness and foolishness as we grow up. We can identify with the older son when we become stuck in resentment and anger perceiving life is unfair. There are moments too when we can identify with the father as we receive and extend forgiveness. Lent is all about identifying with the characters in Jesus’ parable.
Jesus tells the story and we are left to write the ending. Will the older brother come in from the isolation of his resentment and reconcile with his brother? Will he come to enjoy the table of reunion and unconditional love with his father?