The Forgiving Father
24th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
This is a long parable, and a favourite for many people. We can listen to this parable over and over and each time learn something more.
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 is asking 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. I wonder how the father felt.
What does the father do? The father lets the son make a choice. He doesn't 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.
(Squandered = wasted)
(Dissolute Living = making choices that do not bring him life)
Is he thinking about 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 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 finally remembers his father -- (what does he know about his father?) -- and he plans a good speech. He'll say,
a) "I have sinned" -- so he knows he has done wrong;
b) "I am no longer worthy" -- he feels not good enough to be with his father;
c) "treat me like one of your hired hands" -- he wants to come back, but he asks to be like one of the servants.
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; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him.
This is the part that gets me deep down inside.
What has the father been doing all along? If he notices the son while he is still far away, then we know the father watches and waits for his son.
And when he sees him, what does the father do? The father runs to his son. When have you ever seen an important, rich man run to greet someone? Have you seen the president of the United States run to greet someone? Have you seen the prince of England run to greet someone? They wait for the person 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! He didn't finish his speech! The father interrupted him!
“Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.
(The ring means the son belongs with him. Think of a wedding ring - it means the husband and wife belong with each other. 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, he was dead and now he's alive? Now he is full of the life that is meant for him.
It doesn't seem to match, what the son did and what the father does. The son rejected his father, treated him like he had 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 doesn't tell us all the bad things the son did. 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've been? When we remember God and want to come back, will God forgive us?
All we are told is that the Father forgives.
Yeah, but, what if we - The Father forgives.
Okay, I hear that, but what if - The Father forgives.
Right, but - The Father forgives.
You don't know how bad I've been!!! The Father forgives.
The Father forgives.