Gospel LK 15:1-32
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 he addressed this parable.
“What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them
would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert
and go after the lost one until he finds it?
And when he does find it,
he sets it on his shoulders with great joy
and, upon his arrival home,
he calls together his friends and neighbors and says to them,
‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’
I tell you, in just the same way
there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents
than over ninety-nine righteous people
who have no need of repentance.
“Or what woman having ten coins and losing one
would not light a lamp and sweep the house,
searching carefully until she finds it?
And when she does find it,
she calls together her friends and neighbors
and says to them,
‘Rejoice with me because I have found the coin that I lost.’
In just the same way, I tell you,
there will be rejoicing among the angels of God
over one sinner who repents.”
Then he said,
“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.’”
+Prayer: Come Holy Spirit, I love you, abide in me and never leave me; let me hear your voice and your promptings, I long to obey you. Amen
“Filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him. “
I deeply love this parable. It is one of my favorites so it is difficult to express adequately all that is stirred when I pray with this passage. For the sake of this small lectio, I hope to stay with one point: the powerfully tender face of the Father, the countenance of Mercy. “Filled with compassion” Have you ever looked into the eyes of a person who is deeply compassionate? They almost ‘mirror’ what your heart feels like. They ache with you; they are intensely present, absorbed with whatever you allow them to share with you- they are “with you” in the fullest sense of the word. You feel the love in their heart and this love allows you to ‘BE.’ Here in this parable, the Father is “filled with compassion.” His heart was one with the son’s heart and He ached, he felt the son’s pain, the burden of his shame and the terrible feeling in the son’s heart, that he had ‘lost his identity.’ The son no longer felt he had a place of rightful standing with the Father. He was ready to settle for something other than his true identity. He had talked himself out of his sonship and his worth. What did the Father feel, as he gazed upon the son , when he “caught sight of him? ” In this parable Jesus shares with us, what the Father feels: The Father felt compassion. That compassion took on a ‘look’ and that look was Mercy.
We can feel with the Father the joy that flows with Mercy. The Father runs up to him to embrace him. He kisses him on his cheek and forehead perhaps, this tenderness of the Father bears a resemblance of a very tender and filial action of a Father with a small child. This kiss is one of peace, restoration, welcome, cleansing of all fears and total sweetness. When the Father embraces the son and kisses him, can you (with the son) smell the fragrance that he must have smelled coming from the Father’s clothing, it was ‘familiar’ and must have put his heart instantly in a place of comfort and peace, truly knowing He was in the Father’s forgiving arms. All of this Jesus reveals to the Pharisees and to us in this parable- why? Perhaps because he knows that we, in our shame, feel ‘unloveable,' ‘unrestorable’ ‘unwelcome.’ None of it is coming from Him, it is how we treat ourselves when we feel ‘far away’ from the Father, something similar with the son in this parable. We struggle to believe in the constancy of the Father’s love, the constancy of His gaze, because we feel unworthy. This Attribute, this Greatest of all Attributes, of our Heavenly Father is His Merciful Love. As a beloved child of the Father, I am always a child, always a beloved son/daughter, always…. always His. Whether we sin, or live in virtue, nothing changes our true identity, neither our ‘departures-sin’ or our ‘arrivals back to him-grace’ nothing changes my identity in Him, that I am a beloved child of the Father. He delights in me. We must, each one of us, come to this Truth because it is pivotal in our journey. The Father rejoices in our turning towards Him and leaps forward to help us along. Because He is Father.
Take a moment to walk with the prodigal son, turn and leave the ‘pods’ that the swine are feeding on- turn your face to the Father, and begin walking with the young son and allow the Father to embrace you- what is most difficult in that? What makes you feel unworthy of the Love and Mercy being lavishly given to you? What makes you feel that your sonship/daughtership is damaged beyond repair? In your relationship with the Father, what do you want most from Him, what do you ache for?
“He knows your weakness, He wants only your love, only the chance to love you. Bring all that you are suffering to His feet and only open your heart to be loved by Him as you are, He will do the rest.” (St Mother Teresa)