Sunday of the Prodigal Son
The Gospel reading for this Sunday is the parable of the Prodigal Son. It is a parable about repentance and about the steadfast love of God.
In this parable, our Lord tells us of a man who had two sons. These sons lived with their father where all that was necessary and good for their wellbeing was provided and available. In addition, the father had seen to it that each son would receive a generous inheritance of his wealth to take care of their future needs.
The younger son, demonstrating impatience, lack of contentment, and succumbing to the seduction of the world, asked for his inheritance in advance and left his home to go to a far country where he wasted his money and himself on the lusts of this world. After he had already squandered his fortune, a famine came upon the country where he was living and times became very difficult. At his lowest point, he found himself caring for swine and even coveting the scraps of food that were fed to the pigs.
At last, the Gospel tells us that ‘he came to himself’ and reasoned that he might return home and, even if he could only be hired on as a servant within his father’s estate, he would be better off than continuing in his current misery. And so, he took action and in humility he returned to his home. The Gospel tells us that “while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with compassion, and ran and fell upon his neck and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before thee, I am no longer worthy to be called thy son.’ But the father was overjoyed to recover this lost sheep that was his son and commanded that a great feast be prepared in celebration of the return of he who was lost and is now found.”
There is hardly a more moving scene in all of the Gospels than this… for the Prodigal Son realizes the great treasure he never appreciated and left behind, he hits the depths of despair in the pit of sin into which he had fallen, he humbly comes home asking only to be taken in as a servant in his father’s house. And what awaits him?... He is greeted not with scolding, not even with justice, but, even when he was still a long way off, his father’s gaze was set in expectation and hope for his return, and he was greeted with love and compassion and sincere joy over his return.
Let’s think about this for a moment this morning…
The father loved his son when he was with him at home. He loved his son even when the son demanded the early payment of his inheritance. He stood steadfast in his love and hope while the son was off in that far country falling into the abyss of sin and selfishness. And that steadfast love was there and waiting when the son finally came to himself and returned to his father’s house.
This is the image of our heavenly Father, Whose love shines down upon His children.
God is without change, He is constant and steadfast. His love radiates toward His creatures at all times and is not dependent upon us. We do not win Him over by our good behavior… nor does He withdraw His love for us when we are bad and sinful. God’s love does not change.
The changeable factor is us. We are the ones that move toward or away from the light and the love of God. Just as the Prodigal Son went off to a far country, so do we draw ourselves off to a far country when we gravitate toward our sins and our selfish inclinations. God’s love does not fail or falter… He cannot, for He is without change and His love shines forward at all times. It is we who fail and falter.
This is why repentance is so important! Repentance means to change, to turn around. And in turning around from the darkness of our self, we turn toward the radiant light of Christ.
Let us heed the parable of the Prodigal Son… It is WE who find ourselves in the far country of sin and darkness, self-inflicted exiles from the light and love of our Father. We have to wake up and ‘come to ourselves’, recognizing our situation. We must not fear to arise and go… reapproaching our Father… for, as today’s Gospel shows us and assures us, if we come to God in repentance and love, we will be greeted not with punishment, not with the justice that we deserve, but with the waiting embrace of our loving Father, Whose light and love is without change.