Well, if you know me at all, you know that this is my favorite gospel. I have a ministry called the Prodigal Father because of the love that the father has for both of his sons. The word prodigal really means to lavish, to recklessly give your resources. In this gospel, we see that the father is the one that lavishes both of his sons.
He lavishes the younger one when he comes back, but he has been lavishing his older son with grace throughout his whole life. I heard another title from a good friend of mine who is a priest. He said this could also be called “The Parable of the Good Father and Two Lousy Sons.”
Some people are really shocked by that. Some people will say, “But the older son was perfect, right? He didn’t do anything wrong.” The truth is that if we read this parable right we realize that neither son was perfect. Who is the only perfect son? Jesus, right? He is the perfect son, and He came so that He could bring all of us sinners into the Kingdom of God.
Lent is a time when we repent and, as we say on Ash Wednesday, we turn away from sin and are faithful to the Gospel. I want to focus on how both brothers turned away from God – even though one of them seems like he was perfect.
The younger brother’s imperfections are obvious. He takes all of his inheritance, goes off and squanders it, goes with prostitutes, and does everything abominable. Everything he has is gone, and he finds himself in dire need. Some people will say that he is only coming back because he needs his father.
Well, that is true for all of us. We go to the Father because we need him. When the son comes back, he expects the father to treat him like a servant. So, he comes back, and he says, “My Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you, and I no longer deserve to be called your son.” He admits that he is a sinner, and he no longer deserves to be called his son.
What does the father do? He lavishes him with his grace. He puts the finest robe on him, a ring on his finger, sandals on his feet, and celebrates and rejoices because his son who has been gone is home again.
Many of us Catholics that go to Mass regularly on Sunday might associate ourselves with the older brother because we do everything right. We cannot stand our siblings or people who are away from the faith who think they can come whenever they want. Well, the reality is that God loves us in that, too.
Here is how the older brother gets it wrong. He is out in the field working. Notice that he is not actually with the father. He is out in the field. When he comes back, he says to the father, “All these years I have slaved for you.”
When you think about it, that is not really what God the Father wants to be with us. He doesn’t want to have us for His slaves. He doesn’t want us just doing what we are supposed to do and then resenting it. He wants us to share in His life. And so, the father says to him, “My son, you have been with me all this time. Everything I have is yours.”
And so, the same is true for all of us. If we have been in the faith from the time we have been born until now, we have been so blessed to share every Sunday with God. But, sometimes we get resentful. When we are resentful, we turn ourselves away from God. We hear the resent seething out of the older brother.
He says, “Look at all these years I have served you, and not once did I disobey your orders, but you never even gave me a young goat to feast on with my friends.” Then he goes on to describe his brother, and he says with resentment, “When your son returned, who swallowed up your property with prostitutes, you slaughtered the fattened cow.”
I just want us to think a moment about Christ. Would He ever speak that way about any of His children? Would He ever be resentful about somebody coming back? The reality is that we are all sinners.
All of us have failed. All of us have not lived up to the people that we are supposed to be. There are two ways we deal with that. One way is to repent and to tell God that we are really sorry. The other way is to act in denial and act like we have never done anything wrong.
Right now, in this season of Lent, we realize that God the Father is the good one. It is the Parable of the Good Father and Two Lousy Sons because in some ways we have not been Christ. We have not been the people we were called to be. I invite you in your heart right now to meditate on which son you relate with the most.
Do you relate to the prodigal son that is back now after squandering? Or do you relate more with the older brother who is resentful and angry and demanding? The wonderful thing is God the Father loves both of them.
Neither one of them is perfect. Neither one has lived life according to what He has wanted for them. But God loves them perfectly. He loves each and every one of us perfectly. The invitation is there to come back to Him. Right now we have that invitation to come to Him and to celebrate in this banquet of life.
So, take a moment now to call to mind any sins we may be experiencing and the love – the absolute love – the Father has for you.