The Prodigal Son – A Homily Reflection

LentThis past Sunday, the bulk of the Gospel was the Parable of the Prodigal Son.  As it begins – “A man had two sons . . .” instantly we either love it or we hate it. We may love it because this parable sounds very familiar to our own lived experience or we hate it because as soon as we hear those words: “A man had two sons” we know it’s a long reading and furthermore we already know the outcome.

The interesting thing about today’s Gospel parable is that it is such a down to earth and believable story. The so-called prodigal son wants to leave home, wants to go his own way, and wants independence from his family. This is something most of us have experienced, and it is a very natural occurrence.

The desire to leave home and our own space is absolutely normal and at the same time necessary. Sooner or later we all have to take flight from the comforts and confines of our parents or guardians. But where the prodigal son goes wrong is that he uses his new-found independence to reject the values which his parents had spent so much effort trying to help him to acquire. Perhaps he felt life at home was too restrictive and it was time for him to make his own break and that he knew better than his parents.

The task of the parent is to give the child a good grounding in life and a good grounding in Christian values – so that when the break occurs – any mistakes the child makes will enable them to learn without being so devastating so as to ruin their entire lives. – Today’s parents have a real challenge on their hands. They are required to give their children good grounding and at the same time allow their children the necessary freedom to make their own life choices. This has become – no less than a true balancing act to say the least.

One of the biggest challenges any parent faces, is to allow their children to fall flat on their faces while at the same time being there for them to welcome them back into the family – even though they may have really screwed up and may have given the whole family a black eye. Today’s parable points out that there is no shame – or should be no shame to return home.

The older brother in this story also teaches us a lesson. Just because we may play by all the rules and regulations, this does not entitle us all kinds of perks or credits to be rewarded for. In some ways – the older brother in this parable can come off as more selfish than the prodigal son. We may have the tendency to judge him more harshly than his freewheeling brother.

One way or the other the reason Jesus presents this parable is to show us God’s limitless love for us – even though our actions may call for less than a loving response.

God gives us all the independence we crave. He opens His treasury and gives us more than our share when we want to launch out on our own. And He is there waiting to welcome us into His arms whenever we are ready to return to Him.

A key line in today’s parable is the one that states: “While he was still a long way off – his father saw him and was moved with pity.” All of us have a profound ability to be like the prodigal son. Whether young or seasoned – we can act like a smarty-pants and our good Lord waits in the wings for us to come to our senses; and we can be assured He will be there for us with open arms once we decide to get back on the train.

We have every reason to rejoice – not that we have a ticket to be stupid but knowing we have a loving Lord who will take us back even when we slip and fall. As we embark on the second half of Lent – let us reflect on whether we are running from or to the One who has His arms open to us – whether we deserve it or not.

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