The dutiful son
FOURTH SUNDAY OF LENT
March 27, 2022
The younger son did one other thing to his father besides demand his inheritance. He abandoned him. He fled to a distant land where he could not be found. He alienated himself. Now remember that Jesus tells this parable after many complained. “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them” (Luke 15:2). In effect, Jesus is responding to them by asking, “What would you have me do? Turn my back on sinners and isolate them?” The younger son has already isolated himself, turning away from a loving father and a loving God to enjoy as many of life’s pleasures as “his” money would take him. If no one welcomed him back, he would have remained alone: starving for food and for love in a world that had no use for a person without means. Jesus, “made…to be sin who did not know sin” (2 Corinthians 5:21), welcomed sinners like him and ate with them, sharing food and love with those who had lost both. Mercy is not easy to accept when we feel it is applied unjustly. Just ask the older son. He had done everything right. Always obedient, always serving his father, he was the dutiful son. He should be the one rewarded; he should be the one honored. The lavish mercy was decidedly unfair. He resents his father for giving it and his brother for receiving it. Jesus does not tell us what the older son eventually did. But he tells us what the father did. Once again, he took the initiative, going to his son and pleading with him to join him in his joy and celebration. The one son revealed himself to be self-centered by deciding to squander his inheritance on dissolute living. But the other son revealed himself to be shallow, doing the right thing so he would be rewarded. Both needed mercy but only one’s need for it was obvious. We pray we can recognize and accept our own need for it. Amen. (Casey, Most Reverend Robert G. Pastoral Patterns. World Library Publication, 2022)
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