Lent for the Older Brother/Sister of the Prodigal Son/Daughter
Alexander, Andy, S.J.
Waldron, Maureen McCann
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Text from the first four paragraphs of "Lent for the Older Brother/Sister of the Prodigal Son/Daughter"We've heard Jesus' story of the Prodigal Son so many times. It is a frequent gospel for Reconciliation Services. It presents a wonderful image of a loving father who doesn't give up on his wayward younger son. We draw comfort from hearing Jesus remind us that our heavenly Father must be like this father who is positioned out by the road longing for his son to return. This father doesn't even wait to hear the forlorn son's practiced examination of conscience, deep contrition and apology. This father is ready to celebrate his son's return.Sometimes, because of this wonderful image of God's love, we can miss the real point of the story. Jesus tells this story in a concrete situation. Very devout religious people are quite uncomfortable with, actually quite upset with, Jesus' partying with former sinners. These religious people don't seem to care that these people are "former" sinners and that Jesus is celebrating with them because their heavenly Father is rejoicing at their return. These religious folks can't get past the fact that these people are "sinners" and what truly religious people ought to do is condemn sinners, isolate them and have nothing to do with them. They should be made an example of. In fact, to "blur" the fact that they are sinners with such lavish partying is to blur the difference between them and truly religious people, who never sinned in the first place - or at least not the way these people sinned.This is the context for the three parables of mercy Jesus tells in Luke, chapter 15. We can picture this dinner party in a relatively small home with open windows on a warm evening. Everyone outside can hear all the fun that is going on inside. These people are really having a good time. We can picture these religious critics standing at the doorway, announcing their challenge to Jesus' way of behaving.It is at this scene that Jesus quiets the party to tell his three teaching stories. We can picture everyone inside nodding, and perhaps even applauding as he tells the stories of a single lost sheep being sought and found, and the ensuing celebrating. We can imagine the same reaction grow, and perhaps some genuine laughter added, with the second story about a woman turning her house upside down to find a lost coin and then telling her neighbors to celebrate with her.