Gospel Reading : Fourth Sunday in Lent Year C ( Leaflet )

4th Sunday of Lent, Yr.C.

Gospel reading: Lk.15:1-3; 11-32.

Vs.1  The tax-collectors and the sinners, meanwhile, were all seeking the company of Jesus to hear what he had to say,

Vs.2   and the Pharisees and the Scribes complained.  ‘This man,’ they said, ‘welcomes sinners and eats with them.’

Vs.3   So he spoke this parable to them:

Vs.11   A man had two sons.

Vs.12   The younger said to his father, ‘let me have the share of the estate that would come to me.’  So the Father divided the property between them.

Vs.13   A few days later the younger son got together everything he had and left for a distant country, where he squandered his money on a life of debauchery.

Vs.14   When he had spent it all, that country experienced a severe famine, and now he began to feel the pinch,

Vs.15   so he hired himself out to one of the local inhabitants who put him on his farm to feed the pigs.

Vs.16   And he would willingly have filled his belly with the husks the pigs were eating, but no one offered him anything.

Vs.17   Then he came to his senses and said, ‘How many of my Father’s servants have more food than they want, and here am I dying of hunger!

Vs.18   I will leave this place and go to my father and say, “Father I have sinned against heaven and against you;

Vs.19   I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as one of your paid servants.”

Vs.20   So he left the place and went back to his Father.  While he was still a long way off, his Father saw him and was moved with pity.  He ran to the boy, clasped him in his arms and kissed him tenderly.

Vs.21   Then his son said, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.  I no longer deserve to be called your son.’

Vs.22   But the father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.

Vs.23   Bring the calf we have been fattening and kill it; we are going to have a feast, a celebration,

Vs.24   because this son of mine was dead and has come back to life, he was lost and is found.’  And they began to celebrate.

Vs.25   Now the elder son was in the fields, and on his way back, as he drew near the house, he could hear music and dancing.

Vs.26   Calling one of the servants, he asked what it was all about.

Vs.27   ‘Your brother has come,’ replied the servant, ‘and your father has killed the calf we had fattened because he got him back safe and sound.’

Vs.28   He was angry then and refused to go in, and his Father came out to plead with him;

Vs.29   but he answered his father, ‘ Look, all these years I have slaved for you and never once disobeyed your orders, yet you never offered me so much as a kid for me to celebrate with my friends.

Vs.30   But for this son of yours, when he comes back after swallowing up your property – he and his women- you kill the calf you had been fattening.

Vs.31   The Father said, ‘ My son, you are with me always, and all I have is yours.

Vs.32   But it was only right that we should celebrate and rejoice because your brother here was dead and has come back to life; he was lost and is found.’

DEEPER LISTENING

The 15th chapter of Luke’s gospel consists of three parables of God’s mercy: the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost sons.  The parable of the Prodigal Son, read this year on the 4th Sunday of Lent is not only one of the best known and most loved parables, it is also the longest parable in the gospels and is only found in Luke.  The Scribes and Pharisees were highly critical of the pastoral practice of Jesus – welcoming sinners and eating with them.  Jesus responds by means of a parable by which he seeks to bring them to an understanding of the truth of God as a merciful Father, and the truth of themselves as harsh, judgmental and lacking in love.

In the first Reading (Joshua 5:9-12) the Jewish people have come to a new stage in their relationship with God – for God no longer feeds them on manna but on the rich foods of the land of Cannaan. The second  reading from St Paul to the Corinthians (5:12-21) celebrates the reconciling work that God has accomplished and continues to accomplish in Christ.

Where did this happen? 

Jesus is still in Galilee but on route to Jerusalem.  Difficult to be more specific as to a location for this encounter other than it is some public place where tax collectors and sinners have easy access to him.

When did this happen?

This parable of the Lost Son follows on from the parables of the Lost Sheep and the Lost Drachma.  From early on the Scribes and Pharisees were appalled at Jesus’ practice of eating and drinking with sinners and now they have an opportunity to confront him openly and hear what he has to say. From their point of view, tax collectors and sinners are to be shunned and excluded from table fellowship, until such time as they repent of their ways and make amends.  To sit with them, or share a meal with them, or associate with them in any way, without repentance, would be a source of potential contamination for the virtuous.  But this man Jesus, actively seeks them out, eats and drink with them while still in their sin. The Parables of Mercy are Jesus’ response to his critics.

Who was there?

The tax collectors and sinners –despised and marginalized by the religious Jews. The Scribes and Pharisees –probably have come up from Jerusalem to make their case.

Jesus himself – who calmly and subtly through means of a parable exposes the small-mindedness and coldness.

Within the parable itself–you have the loving father – the Prodigal Father – who gives himself totally and unconditionally in loving his children.   The Younger son who leaves the fathers house, ends up utterly miserable, and makes his way back home, and discovers the extent of his Father’s love.  The elder son, who even though he never leaves the house has yet to discover and welcome the true nature of the Father’s love for all his children (himself included) and finds it so hard to come to terms with the turn of events.

The servants have a minor role.

And of course “the fatted calf”!!

What happened?

This is a parable about love and the experience of human love.  It is also a story of sin and repentance, of being lost and found.  It is a human, deep story giving a powerful expression of the love of a father for his two sons, the deep profound expression of human love mirroring the love of God,

In V1-3 Luke gives the context for the parable.  The Scribes and Pharisees did not understand love.  They believed that the tax collectors and sinners were outside the embrace of God’s love

V11-16 – the request of the younger son for his inheritance would have outraged the listeners.  To demand his inheritance prematurely was to dishonour his father, humiliate him in the eyes of his neighbours, and to break family loyalty.  He shows a complete lack of respect and gratitude for  everything he already has, and a lack of trust in all that the father intends to give him in due course. While heartbroken the Father respects his son’s request, doesn’t stand in his way and gives his son his share of the estate and it is soon squandered “on a life of debauchery.”

V14-16 –   Now abandoned and desperately hungry- –  he was totally degraded, feeding  pigs – the lowest of all animals in the eyes of the Jews; worse still he would gladly have filled his belly with the pig food but no one offered him anything.

V17-19 – the younger son, “coming to his senses” and remembering the goodness of his father even towards the house servants who had little or no dignity or value in the eyes of the wider community, and he would be happy to be welcomed back as servant.

V20-24 – these verses are some of the most beautiful in all the gospels.  We can imagine the father longing and waiting for the return of his son. “While he was still a long way off the father saw him coming…” suggests that it was not the first time the father looked down that road. He manifests an unbridled joy, undisciplined, unrestrained, cannot contain himself.  This would have been totally unbecoming of a patriarchal father – “he ran to the boy, clasped him in his arms and kissed him tenderly…” He abandoned himself to the sheer joy of the moment. The son’s measly words “I have sinned..I no longer deserve to be called your son..” fell on deaf ears, “Quick bring out the best robe and put it on him….” His response was not conditional on the son’s sorrow or remorse.  In the putting on of the robe, the ring and the sandals, he was restored to his former dignity as son. The father’s love was total and unconditional:  the son could neither earn nor lose that love.

V25-32- Gives an insight into the mindset of the elder son.  He was hardworking, good living but lacking in humanity.  He finds it impossible to share the joy of the occasion.  He cannot acknowledge his brother, “this son of yours”.  He is harsh and unforgiving. He was equally lost: he didn’t know the gift of his father’s love.  He thought it was something he had to earn by hard work and fidelity to duty and failed to see that it was freely given and that it was unlimited.  The Father himself is surprised that the elder son has not seen it “But son you are with me always and all that I have is yours.”  The attitude of the elder son holds up a mirror to the Scribes and Pharisees.

This parable of a wonderful, compassionate, forgiving father is the story of God.  It gives an insight into the loving heart of God and his constant stance of openness and forgiveness.

Guidelines for meditation.

Can we remember an experience of sin that had its origin in a refusal to trust in somebody’s love:

– fear that somebody might hold something back from us,

– fear that their love alone could never satisfy our deepest need,

– fear that there was not enough for everyone, and so one day we ‘asked for our share of the estate’ and we ‘left for a distant country’?

Can we recognize in life an experience of repentance which was born out of a painful feeling of dissatisfaction with oneself and one’s lifestyle: being in a ‘distant country’; hungry for true love and friendship: ‘feeling the pinch’; the indignity of desiring ‘to fill the belly with the husks the pigs were eating’, no-one seemed to care enough ‘to offer anything’, but it was the first step on the journey home?

Can we identify with the experience of the Father who one day respected his child in making some personal and free choices even though it left the father’s own heart torn and facing long and anxious days and troubled and sleepless nights?

When have we been or  seen the Father’s total and selfless love, of no apology needed, no questions asked; an experience of such overwhelming joy and abandoned loving that he  ‘ran to meet him and clasped him in his arms..put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet, and who just wanted to have a feast, a celebration,’ because he his son was home?

Where we able to move from there to a greater understanding of God’s love or forgiveness?

Can we identify with the elder son in the story who despite all his good deeds, ‘slaved for you,’ ‘never once disobeyed your orders’, did not really appreciate his Father’s heart, ‘My son, you are with me always and all I have is yours,’ and so could only feel disgust at the behaviour of the younger son and resentment at the way he was treated on his return?

Continuing the Lectio Journey:

Let the prayers of thanksgiving, repentance and petition flow from your meditation – ideally these are expressed in our own words interlaced with words from the passage.  (See introduction to Lectio stages.)

Let the rich silence of God’s presence grow and deepen as we journey to a prayer of no words and no images – simple presence to the presence of God. (Contemplative moment – see introduction).

We reflect on our experience of the work of God in the passage and in life until a truth or some truths emerge – new insights into life and love – which can be savoured and celebrated in prayer as they release their life-giving power in us, moulding and shaping our minds and hearts and bearing fruit in our lives. (Wisdom Moment – see introduction).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DEEPER LISTENING

 

The 15th chapter of Luke’s gospel consists of three parables of God’s mercy: the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost sons.  The parable of the Prodigal Son, read this year on the 4th Sunday of Lent is not only one of the best known and most loved parables, it is also the longest parable in the gospels and is only found in Luke.  The Scribes and Pharisees were highly critical of the pastoral practice of Jesus – welcoming sinners and eating with them.  Jesus responds by means of a parable by which he seeks to bring them to an understanding of the truth of God as a merciful Father, and the truth of themselves as harsh, judgmental and lacking in love.

In the first Reading (Joshua 5:9-12) the Jewish people have come to a new stage in their relationship with God – for God no longer feeds them on manna but on the rich foods of the land of Cannaan. The second  reading from St Paul to the Corinthians (5:12-21) celebrates the reconciling work that God has accomplished and continues to accomplish in Christ.

 

Where did this happen?

 

Jesus is still in Galilee but on route to Jerusalem.  Difficult to be more specific as to a location for this encounter other than it is some public place where tax collectors and sinners have easy access to him.

 

When did this happen?

 

This parable of the Lost Son follows on from the parables of the Lost Sheep and the Lost Drachma.  From early on the Scribes and Pharisees were appalled at Jesus’ practice of eating and drinking with sinners and now they have an opportunity to confront him openly and hear what he has to say. From their point of view, tax collectors and sinners are to be shunned and excluded from table fellowship, until such time as they repent of their ways and make amends.  To sit with them, or share a meal with them, or associate with them in any way, without repentance, would be a source of potential contamination for the virtuous.  But this man Jesus, actively seeks them out, eats and drink with them while still in their sin. The Parables of Mercy are Jesus’ response to his critics.