March 31, 2019
by Susan Groseclose
Luke 15:1-3.11b-32In response to the Pharisees and scribes grumbling about Jesus’ radical hospitality, he tells the familiar parable of the Prodigal Son. We have an opportunity to not just read over the familiar words but to find ourselves in the story. I invite you to re-read the scripture passage and using your spiritual imagination discern whether you are like the younger son or like the older son or dare to even consider that you are like the father.
The younger son has acted selfishly using his inheritance to fund his lavish lifestyle. He returns home after his reckless decisions ready to admit the shame of his past and to beg for his father’s forgiveness. All he expects is to be treated as a hired hand; yet, the father offers him unconditional love and forgiveness. He graciously throws a welcome home party and restores his status as a son in the family.
Maybe we relate to the recklessness of the younger son feeling shame and remorse for a recent decision or action. However, God longs to offer us forgiveness and lovingly embrace us as God’s beloved son or daughter.
The older son, while dutiful is also in need of the father’s hospitality and grace. He can’t believe the unconditional love that his father offers to his younger brother! He is jealous that his brother receives such royal treatment while he is seemingly overlooked.
Maybe we relate to the older son – faithful in our daily spiritual practices, dutifully attending and being involved in church; yet, we are resentful or self-righteously think we deserve more in life. However, God begs for us to let go of our feelings of entitlement and open ourselves to God’s undeserved, radical grace extended to all persons.
The loving father offers unconditional love and mutuality to both of his sons. Henri Nouwen, in his meditations, The Return of the Prodigal Son – A Homecoming, reflects on the story and Rembrandt’s painting, The Return of the Prodigal Son. Nouwen sees that our mission and call is to become like the father.
“God’s compassion is described by Jesus not simply to show me how willing God is to feel for me, or to forgive my sins and offer me new life and happiness, but to invite me to become like God and to show the same compassion to others as he is showing me…What I am called to make true is that whether I am the younger or the elder son, I am the son of my compassionate Father. I am an heir. I am to become successor. I am destined to step into my Father’s place and offer to others the same compassion that he has offered me. The return to the Father is ultimately the challenge to become the Father (123)”
In this Lenten season, we recall experiences of acting like both sons. We also recall experiences of God’s unconditional love and the ways we have been transformed by that love. Let us commit to be a witness of God’s unmerited love and reconciliation to all persons.
Prayer: Radical God, you embrace me with your unconditional love. May every thought, every action today reflect your amazing love and grace. Amen.