Saturday of the Second Week of Lent

(Lk 15, 1-3; 11-32)

Tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to Jesus,
but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying,
“This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
So to them Jesus addressed this parable.
“A man had two sons, and the younger son said to his father,
‘Father, give me the share of your estate that should come to me.’
So the father divided the property between them.
After a few days, the younger son collected all his belongings
and set off to a distant country
where he squandered his inheritance on a life of dissipation.
When he had freely spent everything,
a severe famine struck that country,
and he found himself in dire need.
So he hired himself out to one of the local citizens
who sent him to his farm to tend the swine.
And he longed to eat his fill of the pods on which the swine fed,
but nobody gave him any.
Coming to his senses he thought,
‘How many of my father’s hired workers
have more than enough food to eat,
but here am I, dying from hunger.
I shall get up and go to my father and I shall say to him,
“Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.
I no longer deserve to be called your son;
treat me as you would treat one of your hired workers.”‘
So he got up and went back to his father.
While he was still a long way off,
his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion.
He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him.
His son said to him,
‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you;
I no longer deserve to be called your son.’
But his father ordered his servants,
‘Quickly, bring the finest robe and put it on him;
put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.
Take the fattened calf and slaughter it.
Then let us celebrate with a feast,
because this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again;
he was lost, and has been found.’
Then the celebration began.
Now the older son had been out in the field
and, on his way back, as he neared the house,
he heard the sound of music and dancing.
He called one of the servants and asked what this might mean.
The servant said to him,
‘Your brother has returned
and your father has slaughtered the fattened calf
because he has him back safe and sound.’
He became angry,
and when he refused to enter the house,
his father came out and pleaded with him.
He said to his father in reply,
‘Look, all these years I served you
and not once did I disobey your orders;
yet you never gave me even a young goat to feast on with my friends.
But when your son returns
who swallowed up your property with prostitutes,
for him you slaughter the fattened calf.’
He said to him,
‘My son, you are here with me always;
everything I have is yours.
But now we must celebrate and rejoice,
because your brother was dead and has come to life again;
he was lost and has been found.'”

Divine Mercy

Jesus told his most famous parable, the “Parable of the Prodigal Son” as a response to the criticism of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law that he was too friendly to tax collectors and sinners.

Jesus’ compassion for violators of the letter of law, like the prodigal son, truly deserved punishment. The younger son expected to be treated like a slave no longer as a son. The elder son expected his father to punish this erring son, whom  he no longer recognized as his brother. But the Father does the unconscionable (to the self-righteous) by forgiving the repentant sinner. The action of the Father went against the sense of justice of the elder son and the Pharisees.

The Father who has welcomed back the repentant son also invites the elder son, however, to adopt his stance of mercy. The Father demonstrates his joy as the return of the lost son! Oh the unfathomable mercy of God! How God seeks for the lose!

Jesus will reveal the full extent of that love of the Father when he would ascend his throne, the cross, and dispense mercy to the good thief in Calvary even as the other thief (the “elder son”) would fail to recognize the one who could save him! May we always have the courage to go back to the Father, may we always rejoice at the return of sinners to the Father.

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