Welcoming the Prodigal Back

The parable of the prodigal son, the loving father, and the unforgiving brother (Luke 15:11-32)

Then Jesus said: “A certain man had two sons.  And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.’ So he divided to them his livelihood.  And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living.  But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want.

Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.  And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything.  But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!  I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son.  Make me like one of your hired servants.’  And he arose and came to his father.

But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him.And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’  But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet.  And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ And they began to be merry. 

Now his older son was in the field.  And as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing.  So he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant.  And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and because he has received him safe and sound, your father has killed the fatted calf.’  But he was angry and would not go in. Therefore his father came out and pleaded with him.  So he answered and said to his father, ‘Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends.  ‘But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.’  And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours.  It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.’ “

St. Ambrose of Milan (d. 397AD) says of this parable of the kingdom:   

“The parable also teaches us that we should not be troubled when sinners repent and are received by God when we ourselves are struggling, with God’s help, to live a life of righteousness. We must not judge our neighbor’s life – that belongs to God alone – nor God’s bountiful mercy, but we must rejoice with Heaven when a sinner returns to the Father. Thus, as we continue through this preparatory period, the teachings on humility and repentance appropriately prepare us to proceed with a contrite spirit into the great season of compunction.

O Christ our God, through Your

unutterable love for mankind, have mercy

on us and save us. Amen

You can see that the divine patrimony is given to those who ask for it. We are not to think the father is at fault for giving his younger son the inheritance. In God’s kingdom no one is under age, and one’s faith is not measured by one’s years. He who asked certainly thought himself qualified. Indeed, if he had not left his father he would have been unaware of the handicap of his age. But after he left his fathers’ house and went off traveling he began to experience need. Certainly anyone who leaves the Church has squandered his Father’s inheritance. ‘He took his journey into a far country.’ What can be further off than to have withdrawn from oneself? You are separated not by borders, but by behavior; cut off not by lands, but by lusts; for you part company with the Saints and members of God’s household! We who were once far away are now brought close by the blood of Christ. Let us not be grudging towards those making their way back from faraway places.”

(The Synaxarion of the Lenten Triodion and Pentecostarion, pps. 20-22)

2 thoughts on “Welcoming the Prodigal Back

  1. Pingback: The Temptation of Great Lent | Fr. Ted's Blog

  2. Pingback: Images of Repentance | Fr. Ted's Blog

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