Homily. 4th Sunday, Lent C: The Father of Two Sons

This Sunday we have one of the most popular parables, commonly known as parable of the Prodigal son. And certainly, we have heard it commented, God alone knows how many times! But its richness is unfathomable. Well, what I propose to you in this reflection is simply to keep in mind this little phrase: the father of two sons. That’s the hook that holds our reflection. But how does that spur us towards Easter? Just come along with me!

God loves the two sons in me
Bible readings
Joshua 5: 9-12
Psalm 34: 2-7
2 Corinthians 5: 17-21
Luke 15: 1-32

Is it fair

We know the story, it’s about three main characters: the father, the younger son et the elder son. The younger son asks the father to give him his share of the heritage and off he goes; but only to come back later as miserable as misery itself. With no court session, the father welcomes him with a treat unknown even to his diligent and obedient elder son. The elder son, angry and feeling un appreciated, refuses to take part in the party.

I can imagine some people wondering, despite themselves, what the father has done; “is it fair?” If you are one of them, it’s a sign that you have a sense of justice. But it’s not all. We shouldn’t forget to ask also; what kind of justice are we talking about? And by the way, is it fair to impose our notion of justice onto this father?

Watch out against short-cuts!

Knowing that the elder son’s attitude is likened to the attitude of the scribes and pharisees, traditional opposers of Jesus, we are likely to make a short-cut, repelling and scorning the elder son as a simple self-righteous and unforgiving fellow. And so, we run also the risk of downplaying his devotedness and diligence. However, if we take time to feel with him, not only do we understand him better, but we may also discover that we are probably not far from him. That’s why it’s important to consider these sons a bit more closely instead of giving them only a cursory eye.

Elder son

Why not try to see things, not through an eye of an outsider judge, but through his own eye? No need for speculation, it’s enough just to descend into our deep-seated emotions within us. Why not look at yourself from your place of work, your couple or your family where you were brought up. Really, don’t you see yourself, in some way, complaining, resentful or angry for not receiving what you thought you deserved? Aren’t there times when you felt that your partner didn’t acknowledge enough your application to the wellbeing of your couple and family? Haven’t you ever got angry just because you felt unnoticed? How would you have liked to be treated? Or perhaps, you can go back to your place of work, and see that “incompetent” colleague of yours occupying the chair that you are convinced you should be the right person seating on it? What’s your feeling? Perhaps you begin to see how annoying the forgiving father can be. Sorry, dear elder son!

Younger son

The elder son is angry not just because of the forgiveness shown to his baby brother, but also because he finds that what he did was unacceptable. Here you have a little spoiled younger son; adventurous, wasteful and rebellious -not ready to soil his hand but only quick to claim his share of the heritage; asking even impolitely. Asking for the heritage before his father’s death it’s like saying; well, I have been waiting that you die one of these days, but it appears to me you are still holding onto life longer than I can tolerate it. So, just give me my share, and then you are free to live even a thousand years -I won’t be there, anyway! But he’s not mature enough to use responsibly what he has received; before long he finds himself in misery. So, by coming back he is somehow laying his hand even onto what was left.  Disgusting! Surely, doesn’t this fellow merit a good lesson?

Indeed, how annoying it can be at a place of work or in the family when everyone is trying to work hard for a better future and there you have a fellow just there like a parasite.  Intolerable! Well, just keep in mind the hook for this reflection.

The father of two sons

I like the idea of the Father of two sons. It’s not easy to be really a father or a mother of two children. We know it too well the little wars going on in families where parents are accused: “I know you like my brother/my sister more than me”. Without knowing, at times we just find ourselves leaning more to those who are more obliging towards us and keeping others at a distance. That’s why I admire the attention that the father gives to each of his sons. He has been waiting for the return of the younger son whom sees while he’s still far off, ever ready to give him a kiss of welcome. Similarly, when his dutiful elder son refuses to participate in the banquet, and remains outside, again, it’s the same father who goes out to speak to him -begging him to enter the father’s house. Beautiful! He meets each one right there where he is.

Facing the two sons

How do I face the two sons, that is, shadow and light, firstly, in my own life, then, in my family or in my place of work? How ready am I to embrace the two, for a better tomorrow, without stagnating myself on passing judgment or condemning?

The younger son, adventurous, rebellious and wasteful; yet, it took that very experience to discover and appreciate the depth of his father’s love. Indeed, it’s when I’m face to face with my own limits and poverty do I stop taking things for granted -I begin to count on God’s bounty.  Or I may be like the elder son, apparently solid, well-behaved and compliant yet distant from the father. Not only is he intolerant when his father welcomes the younger son but somehow, he goes further even to disown him when he reproaches the father saying: “when this son of yours came back”. He just can’t bring himself to say my brother. It may be, unfortunately, a similar case in our families too.

But what’s the matter?

I can’t close this reflection without posing the question: what’s the matter? Jesus does not give parables fortuitously, there’s always something he wants his public to reflect about. Indeed, there’s an issue here too. People have created an idol for themselves.

They have fashioned God into their own image: an intolerant, judging and selective God who should like a certain group of people and hate others. It’s an image of God like a businessman who goes about making transactions; he drops something onto your lap only if you give him something -nothing is free. Such idolatrous image of God, I regret to say, may be there among us too. The parable challenges us, each one of us, to discover the God of Jesus which who enable us to move forward on our Lenten journey.

It’s God the father of two sons

Which son am I, younger or elder son? Most probably both! Anyway, whichever son I’m, God, the loving and forgiving father, comes to embrace and invite me inside the house. He meets me right where I’m; it could be in the midst of the poignant stench of the piggery or it could be in the blaze of anger, resentment, frustration and jealousy. His speech and gesture are simple: you are my son; come into your father’s home. Wow! I can only, in response, hasten my strides to the banquet hall -the new life of Easter!

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See also:

3rd Sunday of Lent C. If You don’t Repent, You Die! 
homily. 2nd Sunday of Lent C. Transfiguration, Awake, Never Miss a Scene!
Homily. 1st Sunday of Lent C. Facing my Liberty to Choose

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