Vocation Meditation -
4th Sunday of Lent, 2010
All the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to Jesus. And the Pharisees and the Scribes were grumbling and saying, "This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them."
So he told them a parable: "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 the father divided his property between them. A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled 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...
"But when he came to himself he said, 'How many of my fathers' 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 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 fatted 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 the 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. The slave replied, 'Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.'
"Then the elder son 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 fatted 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.'"
Knowing that the Pharisees were scandalized at Jesus' mixing with sinners and outcasts of society, Jesus told this greatest short story ever of a loving, compassionate God, who is forgiving, abounding in mercy and love who waits for the 'return of the prodigal son' in each of us.
It is a story of a homecoming after a fall, a story of a freedom misused and abused.
It is a story of a relationship broken and allowed to take a different course away from trust and love.
When the son came to his senses and headed home, he never had the chance to speak of his resolve to be considered a servant. This is because in his gesture of humility, his father saw more in him. In his return, the son regained the father's love. He is found. He is home!
The robe, the ring and the shoes given to the son were all symbols of the relationship between father and son restored!
As opposed to the elder son, the Father's unlimited trust and forgiveness shines more than ever. In the elder son, there was calculation, there was hardness of heart. The father invited him to take the path of healing and reconciliation.
"Quickly, bring out a robe-the best one-and put it on him."
Am I ready to offer the 'best robe' of healing to those who go astray?
You have revealed to us the depth of your mercy. The 'prodigal son' in me is a recurring experience of misusing my freedom to love and care. Thank you for that 'long distance look of love' while I go astray. Thank you for waiting for my return. May these experiences of being lost and being found by You, become the guiding force of my vocation to seek those who are lost, that I may bring them home to You. Amen.
For the full Gospel reading for this Sunday, visit the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops site.