A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke 15:1-32
.....................Luke 15:11-32 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.’”
REFLECTION: "filled with compassion" "He became angry" "we must celebrate and rejoice"
When the father saw his son walk away with not knowing if he would ever see his son again he was left with grief. The grief of the loss of the love he had for his son but could no longer give to him as his son said goodbye. So the father with a lump in his throat and total loss of the situation, must have endured the anger, self abasement, the reproachment, the questions of " what just happened?" or "how could I have prevented this?", or "will I ever see him again?" "am I in a situation that is never to improve but will leave me in a state of constant misery?"
Those of us who have lost loved ones or who have prodigal children can add more questions --questions that rise from our loss. I am sure the father prayed many long hours, maybe fasting and praying, for the return of his son. Then one day he saw him walking from a distance. How many long days, weeks or years were spent waiting in faith and hope that his son would come home and now his prayers are answered and "filled with compassion" runs to greet his son.
But not all would be happy. The second son, on learning of his brother's welcome back party, is most likely frustrated and "He became angry". Not understanding his father's love he tells his dad why he is upset. Maybe he too wanted to go out and have fun but out of love, respect and obedience to his dad did not. Maybe he thought that if he served his father he would be rewarded over and over with praises or maybe a party as well. How many times do we do things, hoping and expecting praise and many thank you's from our friends but also from God?
How many times have we left home running off after our dreams, searchng for love and adventure? How many of us have seen our children leave, what we thought was the best place to be, to live a life without God?
Notice the tenderness of the father’s love. You don’t read it nor hear it but you can feel this love that he has for both sons who in their own way did not return his love. One son physically left his father’s love in pursuit of lust and greed and the other son, though at home, also left his father’s love for anger and envy.
God’s love is very gentle. Spend time in the Holy Eucharist. May we be aware of the slow way we turn from God, who is love, in our day to day activities. He loves us so much that He allows us to leave home. May one day we hear Him say, “we must celebrate and rejoice" when we return.