The Sunday of the reading of the parable of the Prodigal Son (in Greek: Η παραβολή του ασώτου υιού) comes during the pre-fasting period before the Great Fast. The icon or reflection of the Prodigal son is the perfect reflection illustrates not only sin by a turning away from sin. The parable Jesus taught about the Prodigal Son is the last of a trio of parables that is told together after the Pharisees and Scribes grumbled among themselves that He was dining with sinners. Within the hearing of the assembly, Jesus tells the parable of the Good Shepherd, the parable of the Lost Coin, and finally the parable of the Prodigal or wasteful Son. This well-known parable describes sin as a self-imposed exile or cutting off of oneself from God:
Sunday of the Prodigal Son
The Lord told this parable: “There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them. “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ So he got up and went to his father. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate. “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’ “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’” (Luke. 15, 11-32)
The story of the prodigal son is one of the best known of all Jesus’ parables. Most of us have probably heard it or read it periodically ever since we were children. The story is often used as an example of the love of a father for his children despite their short-comings and as an example of God’s love for his people in the face of their sin and rejection.
The father and elder brother of the prodigal had every right to be offended by the young man’s actions. He had taken his inheritance before he was legally entitled to receive it. Not only that, he had squandered it. As a result, the father and the elder brother had suffered a significant financial loss which fueled the elder son’s resentment.
By going off as he did, the prodigal indicated clearly that he was permanently severing his relationship with his father and the rest of the family.
Despite this, when the prodigal returned his father was able to disregard the financial loss and the pain of his son’s rejection. The elder son was unwilling or unable to do so. His anger and resentment were so great that he was incapable of forgiving. At one time or another, we have probably all been offended by the action of some family member. Like the elder son, we may still be harboring resentments because of our unwillingness to forgive someone who has hurt us. If anyone ever had the right to
bear a grudge, it would surely be the father of the prodigal son.
But because of his great love, he was able to overcome the temptations of anger and resentment. This is the kind of love God has for us – and the kind he wants us to have for each other.Examine your relationships with others, especially members of your own family. In light of God’s love for us, we cannot withhold our love from others, even if they have caused us great pain and disappointment.
God calls each of us to love and to forgive in the same way that he loves and forgives. If you are nursing a grudge against anyone because they have hurt or offended you, forgive them in your heart. Pray (in the words of the Our Father) that God would deliver you from the evil holding you in bondage. If possible and prudent, seek reconciliation. This does not mean that we ignore or condone sin, but it does mean that we seek to heal ruptured relationships so that God’s healing might be worked through them