A reading from the gospel according to Luke 15:1-3, 11-32:
1 Tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to Jesus,
2 but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
3 So to them, Jesus addressed this parable:
11 “A man had two sons,
12 and the younger son said to his father, ‘Father give me the share of your estate that should come to me.’ So the father divided the property between them.
13 After a few days, the younger son collected all his belongings and set off to a distant country where he squandered his inheritance on a life of dissipation.
14 When he had freely spent everything, a severe famine struck that country, and he found himself in dire need.
15 So he hired himself out to one of the local citizens who sent him to his farm to tend the swine.
16 And he longed to eat his fill of the pods on which the swine fed, but nobody gave him any.
17 Coming to his senses he thought, ‘How many of my father’s hired workers
have more than enough food to eat, but here am I, dying from hunger.
18 I shall get up and go to my father and I shall say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.
19 I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as you would treat one of your hired workers.”’
20 So he got up and went back to his father. While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him.
21 His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I no longer deserve to be called your son.’
22 But his father ordered his servants, ‘Quickly bring the finest robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.
23 Take the fattened calf and slaughter it. Then let us celebrate with a feast,
24 because this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost, and has been found.’ Then the celebration began.
25 Now the older son had been out in the field and, on his way back, as he neared the house, he heard the sound of music and dancing.
26 He called one of the servants and asked what this might mean.
27 The servant said to him, ‘Your brother has returned and your father has slaughtered the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’
28 He became angry, and when he refused to enter the house, his father came out and pleaded with him.
29 He said to his father in reply, ‘Look, all these years I served you and not once did I disobey your orders; yet you never gave me even a young goat to feast on with my friends.
30 But when your son returns who swallowed up your property with prostitutes, for him, you slaughter the fattened calf.’
31 He said to him, ‘My son, you are here with me always; everything I have is yours.
32 But now we must celebrate and rejoice, because your brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’”
Points for Reflection: The Parable of the Prodigal Son
1. Our Father in heaven is represented by the father in the story above. He is compassionate to a fault as far as man is concern. He lovingly welcomed the younger son when the latter returned. There was no demand for explanation. On the other hand, He comforted the older son when the latter got upset about the “undue” feast given to the younger son.
2. The younger son committed at least three sins namely:
a) He insulted his own father by asking for his inheritance to be given to him. Normally, the heir waits for the father to distribute the inheritance on his own accord or after his death.
b) He moved out of the family and squandered the money given to him. An inheritance is a gift. It is not earned. In some culture, an inheritance should be passed on to the next generation.
c) He got involved with sinful activities such drunkenness and sexual activities.
3. To be sent to a piggery to work there is an indication of how low the descent of the younger son. A pig is considered a very dirty animal.
4. A life of destitution is a direct result of squandering money.
5. The elder brother can be justified for getting angry with his father. After all, he has been a good and obedient son. Yet, it is important for him to respect the decision of his father and to accept back his own brother.
Important lessons from the parable:
1. We must never take for granted our family especially our parents. In time of need, it is to them that we turn to.
2. No matter how low we have fallen, we must always remember that God our Father in heaven is always ready to welcome and forgive us.
3. God does not prevent from leaving Him. He respects our decision-making process.
4. The younger son can learn about faithfulness from the elder son. The latter can learn forgiveness, humility and acceptance from the former. The brothers need each other so they need to live in harmony.