Donald R. Elly, M.Div.
The Parable known as “the Prodigal Son” was interpreted in several ways as I was growing up: One stated that Jesus wants us to avoid becoming Prodigal sons (and daughters) who rebel, leave home and end up penniless children who need repentance. The second stressed that living a religious life is done by avoiding contact with sinners, strangers and outsiders (a Christian version of Judaism efforts to be holy by staying Kosher).
Another way is to see God as focused on getting everyone to repent so that life as a Prodigal could be avoided. All these ways of living as a Christian attempted to avoid trouble. God, as described in the parables of the found sheep, the found coin and the beloved son is a joyful God who desires everyone, regardless of national or even religious identity, to experience the joy in life?
Responding to God in thankfulness for life itself is a major purpose for human life and empowers the loving of one’s neighbor no matter where they live, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, National identity and religious affiliation.1 Gone are the walls between religions and countries and the negative power of sin, violence and abuse of power.
The Father of the youngest son and the elder son is able to forgive the selfishness of both sons. The Father’s welcome of the youngest son makes clear that repentance (change in the behavior) of the youngest is what makes the Party necessary and is hopeful that the humility expressed is permanent change.
The Father’s response to the elder son is what we who are attempting to be pure and suffer from self-righteousness need to hear, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is MINE is yours. But 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.” Accepting our being found by God is what God wants to do for all and was the purpose going all the way back to creation—so come and celebrate with God in God’s joy.
1.Barbara Brown Taylor. Holy Envy (2018) is a powerful statement of what it means to be Christian in a world of multiple religions. She makes clear that being Christian does not mean being dominant or better than all others.
March 31, 2019 Cycle C 4th Sunday of Lent
Isaiah 61:1-3; Psalm 32; 2nd Cor. 5:16-21; *Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32