Sunday of the Prodigal Son
Today, as we proceed in our preparation for Great Lent, we hear Jesus’ well-known parable of the Prodigal Son. In telling us this parable, Jesus Christ shows us what repentance involves. To repent is not simply to seek to do better, or to change ourselves by our own efforts. Rather, it is to repair our relationship with a loving Father, a relationship that had become broken when we turned our backs on Him.
This parable shows us how this son, who had squandered his inheritance in riotous living, “came to himself.” Having realised that even his father’s servants were better off than he was, he determined to return home, even if only as a servant. But his father was overjoyed and welcomed him as his long-lost son, ordering a great feast, and showing how delighted he was to see his son again. The intention of the parable is to show how the Father longs for us to repent and turn to Him again, and welcomes us with great love when we do so. As Saint Peter Chrysologus writes:
‘He fell on his neck and kissed him.’ This is how the father judges and corrects his wayward son and gives him not beatings but kisses. The power of love overlooked the transgressions. The father redeemed the sins of his son by his kiss, and covered them by his embrace, in order not to expose the crimes or humiliate the son. The father so healed the son’s wounds as not to leave a scar or blemish upon him. ‘Blessed are they,’ says Scripture ‘whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.’
The phrase “came to himself” is significant here, for the son realised that his entire identity was being destroyed. The Fathers teach us that by turning away from God, we have become subject to corruption and are being gradually destroyed. It is only by turning back to our Loving Father who reaches out to us, and re-establishing a relationship with Him, that this corruption can be turned around, enabling us to truly come home, not only to our Father, but also to our true selves.
Christ chooses those who stand. Rise and run to the Church. Here is the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. He who hears you pondering in the secret places of the mind runs to you. When you are still far away, he sees you and runs to you. He sees in your heart.
Saint Ambrose of Milan
The Holy Gospel according to Saint Luke 15:11-32:
The Lord said this parable: “There was a man who had two sons; and the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that falls to me.’ And he divided his living between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took his journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in loose living. And when he had spent everything, a great famine arose in that country, and he began to be in want. So he went and joined himself to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would gladly have fed on 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, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me as one of your hired servants.’ And he arose and came to his father. But while he was yet at a distance, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet; and bring the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and make merry; for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to make merry. Now his elder son was in the field; and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants and asked what this meant. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has received him safe and sound.’ But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, ‘Lo, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command; yet you never gave me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your living with harlots, you killed for him the fatted calf!’ And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to make merry and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.'”