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  • Sr Siobhán

A compassionate father

Second Week of Lent – Saturday

Reading: Luke 15:1-3 11-32

Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and scribes were grumbling and saying, ‘This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.’ .

Then Jesus said, “There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, “Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.” So he divided his property between them. A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and travelled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself he said, “How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.” So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. Then the son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you: I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” But the father said to his slaves, “Quickly, bring out a robe – the best one-and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!” And they began to celebrate.

‘Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. He replied, “Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.” The he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. But he answered his father, “Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes you killed the fattened calf for him! Then the father said to him, “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.”


In this instance, the more difficult dynamics of family life come under Gospel scrutiny and are embraced by the mercy of God. Youthful desire for independence from parents and some of the challenges encountered are brought into the spotlight. An impetuous young man asks his father for his inheritance. Insensitive to the feelings of his father, he leaves home to seek out a new life abroad leaving the moral code of the family behind. ‘he squandered his property in dissolute living.” Soon reality bites and he is alone and isolated in a strange land. The greatest anguish that he experiences results from the sin that has invaded his soul. Starved of food and affection, he seeks out the warmth and embrace of his father. Reflective of the fatherhood of God, a generous, forgiving father welcomes him home, no questions asked; a banquet of reconciliation and healing are prepared; great is the rejoicing of father, son and friends. Sadly, the foolishness and shadow of the elder son come to light; imprisoned in his resentment and anger at real or imagined hurts, he is unable to join in his brother’s homecoming celebration. He too has a need for forgiveness and reconciliation, a need that may even be greater because his sin is unacknowledged. Suffering has purified the soul of the younger brother; not so the elder. A compassionate father wishes to gather both his sons in his arms like ‘a hen gathers her brood under his wings’ (Matthew 23:37) but the wounded elder son is unwilling to surrender to the embrace of his father.

I am challenged to reflect on my own life where my desire for independence or other attitudes may have hurt others. I ask myself what have I done to repair any wounded relationship or what may I still need to do? At times, my pride and self-sufficiency have hurt my God when I have not lived by Gospel values. In humility do I ‘get up and go to my father, and say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son;’ (child)) Do I truly believe that God’s mercy and love for me and all humanity is so great ‘that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, not things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.’ (Romans 8:38-39) What resolutions have I made to live a life ‘worthy of the calling to which you have been called’ (Ephesians 4:1)


I ask forgiveness for the many times that I have squandered the inheritance of grace offered to me by my Father. Fill my heart with humility O God, that I may acknowledge my sin; be embraced in your love; cleansed; healed and made whole.


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