The Gospel story this Sunday presents two sons and one very loving, compassionate father. Do you identify more with one son than with the other? Do you find that you judge one son and sympathize with the other?
If the truth be told, both sons need to grow up. The first son is obviously rather self-absorbed. Not wanting to wait for his inheritance until his father died, he asks for it in his youth and goes off to live only for himself. When he is destitute he comes home with a slim recognition that he has done wrong but also with no place else to turn.
The older brother has never disobeyed his father. He has been faithful in meeting his responsibilities. But when he finds out that his bother has returned and been accepted back into the family, he refuses to join the party. Notice that he doesn’t even acknowledge his brother. When he objected to his father he says: “When your son returns…” In effect, he has disowned his own brother. He feels unappreciated and has his own little pity party outside the house, emotionally far from the celebration.
Once again, do you identify more with the one son than the other son? Do you make judgments about the one and sympathize with the other? It could be very revealing to search this out in your mind and heart.
Well, I think both sons need to grow up. The most important person in the story is not the selfish son or the brooding son. The most important person in the story is the father. You may think he was ill-advised to give the little guy money in the first place. But he does. He treats both sons with compassion and gentleness. He has the wisdom of age and experience but he must have suffered greatly when the younger son left and when the older son refused to join the celebration. Each in his own way separates himself from the family: the one through his impatient greed, the other through his self-righteous indignation. The father loves them both and tries to heal them through his words and actions.
As we move into this second half of Lent, we move closer to the scandal of the Cross, namely, that God would love us so much to suffer and die for us. In the parable for the Gospel today, one would hope that both sons would come to appreciate their father and each other much more. There really is no ending to the story for the story is your story and my story. What ending will you give it by your words and actions?
May the Lord give you peace.
Rev. James M. McNamara