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24th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Ages 9-12): The Father Forgives

(The Gospel for this Sunday includes all three lost and found parables. This reflection looks only the third.)

Luke 15:11-24 (full reading: Luke 15.1-32)

The parable in this Sunday's Gospel is one of the longest parables and is a favourite for many people. The Church knows we can listen to this parable over and over and each time learn something more. We listened to in back on the fourth Sunday of Lent, and now again in Ordinary Time. What does God want us to hear today?

Then Jesus said, ‘There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, “Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.” So he divided his property between them.

The younger son asks for his inheritance, the property and money that will be his when his father dies. Does it belong to him? Not yet. But he cannot wait for his father to die. He wants it now. We wonder how that makes the father feel.

What does the father do? The father lets the son make a choice. He does not stop him.

A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and travelled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living.

What does this mean? What does the son do? Squandering means wasting. Dissolute Living are choices that do not bring him life. Jesus uses only a few words here but we begin to imagine what the son might be doing.

Does he think of his father at all?

When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself he said—

How low he has sunk! From someone who has everything to someone who has nothing. We wonder how long it takes him to realize this. Jesus says that finally he comes to himself. Where has he been? Away from himself. Away from the person he is. Away from the person God means him to be.

Finally, though, he comes to himself and remembers his father. What does he know about his father?

But when he came to himself he said, “How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.’”

Okay, notice his plan. He plans a good speech. He will show what he knows:

a) "I have sinned"—he knows he has done wrong;

b) "I am no longer worthy"—he knows he has dishonoured his father;

c) "treat me like one of your hired hands"—he knows he is not good enough to be part of the family so he will ask he asks to be like one of the servants.

Most of all, he will shows that he wants to come back.

So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion;

If the notices the son while he is still far away, then what has the father been doing all along? We know the father watches and waits for his son.

And when he sees him, what does the father do?

he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him.

The father runs to his son. When have we ever seen an important, rich man run to greet someone? Does the president of the United States run to greet someone? Does the King of England run to greet someone? No, they wait for people to come to them.

But the father runs.

The father cannot wait to throw his arms around his son.

Then the son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” But the father said to his slaves—

Wait, wait, wait! His speech is not finished; that was only part a and b! The father interrupts him! It is enough that the son is home.

“Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.

Clothe him in finery, put sandals on his sore feet. Give him a ring to show that he belongs. The father wants his son.

And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!” And they began to celebrate.

How does the father feel? We know how he feels—he throws a party! The father celebrates! What does he mean, the son was dead and now he is alive? Now he is himself, the person he is, the person God means him to be. Now he is full of the life meant for him.

It does not seem to match, the son's choices and the father's forgiveness. The son rejects his father, treats him like he has died—but the father says nothing about that. He accepts him back as his son. All is restored…

As with all parables, we ask: Who could this father be like? Who could this son be like? What could this hugging and kissing, this celebration be like? What is Jesus trying to tell us? What does Jesus want us to know about the love of God?

If the father is like God, and we are like the son, what do we know? Let's look back:

The Father lets us make a choice.

The Father watches and waits for us.

The Father runs to us.

The Father cannot wait to throw his arms around us.

The Father wants us.

The Father celebrates!

The Father accepts us back as his children. All is restored…

Jesus does not tell us all the bad things the son does. We can imagine how bad he might have been, we can imagine the WORST possible things (the older brother imagines them!)—but we are not told. Why? All we are told is that the father forgives.

So does it matter how bad we have been? Does it matter how bad our choices are?When we remember God, when we want to come back, will God forgive us?

All we are told is that the Father forgives.

Yeah, we might say, but what if we—

The Father forgives.

Okay, we hear that, but what if—

The Father forgives.

Right, but—

The Father forgives.

Stop it! You don't know how bad I have been!!!

The Father forgives.

The Father forgives.

The Father forgives.

Thank God.


(Perhaps you are reading this thinking, yeah, but what about that elder brother. How come everyone forgets about him? Click here.)

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