Gospel: Luke 15:1-32
Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. 2And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” 3So he told them this parable: 4“Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? 5When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. 6And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ 7Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. 8“Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? 9When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ 10Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
11Then Jesus said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them. 13A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. 14When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. 15So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. 16He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. 17But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! 18I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; 19I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.”’ 20So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. 21Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; 24for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate. 25“Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. 26He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. 27He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.’ 28Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. 29But he answered his father, ‘Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. 30But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’ 31Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’”
Everything I Have is Yours by Bishop Robert Barron
|The Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:1-32), which we hear today at Mass, tells us practically everything we need to know about our relationship to God, if we attend to the details.
We hear: “A man had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the estate that is coming to me.’” We are the children of God; we have been given our life, our being, everything by him; we exist through him every moment.
But then the wrong response: “Give me my share that is coming to me.” To live properly in God is to live in an attitude of receptivity and generosity, receiving a gift from God and being always ready to give it away.
Yet God respects our freedom and so “the father divided up the property.” This is a tragic moment. What is meant to be a flow of grace becomes divided, separated, and riven into yours and mine.
Where does the son go? He wanders with his fortune into the “far country.” In Greek the phrase is chora makra, meaning “the great wide-open emptiness”. There he quickly squanders his inheritance, and so it always goes. When we cling to the divine life as our own, we lose it. He was forced to hire himself out so as to become a feeder of pigs. In the chora makra, there are only relationships of economic calculation, each one striving to hang on to what is his. “No one made a move to give him anything.” And so it goes in the far country: it is the place of no giving.
Coming to his senses at last, he decides to break away and return to his father, saying, “Treat me like one of your hired hands.” He knows that even the slaves are in a life-giving relationship.
The father sees him from a long way off (he had obviously been looking for him) and then, throwing caution and respectability to the winds, he comes running out to meet him. The Bible is not the story of our quest for God, but of God’s passionate, relentless quest for us. The father then says, “Put a ring on his finger and shoes on his feet.” This is the ring of marriage, symbolizing the re-establishment of right relation between us and God.
Now the older son—though superficially so different from his brother—is actually in the same spiritual space, for he too sees himself in an economic relationship to his father. Like most upright, religiously respectable people, he is put off by this celebration for someone who most assuredly does not deserve it. Listen to his language: “For years I have slaved for you. I never disobeyed any of your orders, yet you never gave me so much as a kid goat to celebrate with my friends.”
The older son is therefore a slave, and one who carefully obeys—not one who has caught the spirit of his father. He feels that he has to earn or deserve his father’s love. He hates his brother and is resentful of his father’s generosity. “Then when this son of yours returns after having gone through your property with loose women, you kill the fatted calf for him.” When we fall out of love with God, we fall into hatred of one another.
The father patiently explains: “My son, you are with me always, and everything I have is yours.” This is the key to the entire parable and is true for both sons, though they don’t realize it.
Everything that God has is given to us. His whole being is “for-giving.”
“Our true worth does not consist in what human beings think of us. What we really are consists in what God knows us to be.”
— St. John Berchmans
Just as spiritual blindness can be far more devastating than the loss of physical sight, so having our vision of God’s grace restored can bring healing far beyond the physical. We see hope where once we knew only despair, and more than that we see new ways to communicate that hope to others. We look with new eyes on the people around us and see how they, too, are children of God.
This is the God who gives His very self for the salvation of the world!