Photo via Flickr user Lawrence OP
Sunday Readings: Joshua 5.9,10-12; 2 Corinthians 5.17-21; Luke 15.1-3,11-32
Then Jesus said, “There was a man who had two sons. The younger said to the father, ‘Father, give me the share of your property that will fall to me.’ So the father divided up the property. After a few days the younger son, having gathered together all of his things, went away to a far off country.“
Most of us know Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son. Indeed the focus commonly falls on the prodigal, the problem child. Jesus focuses first on the father; it’s a parable about a man with two sons and his relationships with both. It’s also a parable about the relationship of the brothers to each other. For me, the parable brings up my younger sister, severely hard of hearing, to whom our teacher mother devoted constant phonics lessons. My sister liked to hold her ears and claim I was shouting or worse whistling to hurt her ears. I got a reprimand. Is Jesus about the younger son who absorbs more attention that the other son? Or is the parable about me, the dutiful oldest child, dependable and responsible, who ran errands the fastest? Or is the parable about the older brother who resents his father welcoming back his brother and feels under appreciated. Who is lost? Or is the parable about the father who knows each son and reaches out to each? Then there is the feminist question. Where is the mother? Is her absence the reason a favorite younger son grows apart and a dutiful older son fails to please his father no matter how hard he tries? The story gives us no clue, but these questions introduce familiar family dynamics.
Who are you like in the parable–the wild lost son? The dutiful son? The challenged father? The absent mother?
Start a small bible study. Be a leader.
The topic of siblings usually provokes conversation. Siblings may consider some of us oldest children bossy even though parents might use the words dependable and responsible.
Many of us have the wild or special-needs brother or sister who absorbs more attention than the rest. This is the one who wrecks the car or who gets taken to the police station for spraying graffiti on garage doors or stays at a friend’s house without asking or telling.
My next younger sister needed constant attention to learn to speak because she was severely hard of hearing. Mother put all her teaching skills to use on constant phonics lessons. If Jan held her ears or suggested any of the rest of us were bothering her, we got a reprimand. Naturally my sister became very creative in using her ears against us – sounds as if I haven’t entirely let that go!
I’m the dutiful oldest child who spent a week retying the bamboo shades on the porch and painted the cattle sheds. I’m the one who could do errands the fastest.
I’m not the prodigal younger son in the parable Jesus tells this Sunday. I’m the older son who is supposed to celebrate the homecoming of my brother who hurt our father, wasted money on his wild friends, and lost everything.
How do you characterize yourself – more a wild, willful, wasteful child or more a responsible, obedient, dutiful child?
This excerpt from Sunday By Sunday is by Joan Mitchell, CSJ
My son, you are with me always, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice! This brother of yours was dead and lives again. He was lost and is found.
In Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son, Luke holds up not only a model of conversion in the younger son but also a characterization of Jesus’ faithful and forgiving Father. The father in the parable does not wait for his son to arrive home but runs to meet him, embraces him, and kisses him lovingly.
The father never allows the son to finish the confession he has planned, which ends in asking to be a hired a hand. The son’s act of coming home acknowledges his new desire to reconnect as much as any words can say. The father restores him as a son with robe, ring, and sandals and sets a homecoming table for him.
But the elder son resents his father welcoming his brother home. Will he join the celebration as his father urges?
What does the father in the parable tell us about God?