A scholarly attempt at an interpretation of Sunday's liturgical readings.

We often wonder why some people can’t mind their own business.  They are folks who want to make your business their business.  The frequent problem is that by their “interference,” they often impute motivation rather than seek it.

In the Gospel (Luke 15:11-32) the scribes and Pharisees impute motivation to Jesus by saying, in effect, that he should watch his relationship with sinners.  “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”  How can one maintain social stratification  if one welcomes and eat with the “lower class?”  This type of consorting is not the “proper” thing to do.

Jesus, however, made it clear that he was not interested in social niceties but in forgiveness and reconciliation.  So, he tells the parable of what we often refer to as the prodigal son.  But, it is important to note that it is the father in this parable who is the key figure.  How so?  Because the text tells us that the father had TWO sons, and thus the contrast between the two  is emphasized in terms of  forgiveness and reconciliation.

With regard to the younger son, we see that when he headstrongly left the farm and squandered all his money, at the time of a great famine, he regretted what he had done.  He was very sorry and planned to apologize to his father.  But when his father saw him from a distance, he ran to the young man, embraced and kissed him.  There was forgiveness and the reconciliation took place at the feast.

The older brother, however, became aware of what was happening and was outraged.  After all, he was very loyal and did whatever was asked of him.  The father noticed  the older son refusing to come and join the feast because of his anger.  “Look what your son has done,” the older brother said to the father referring to his younger brother’s waste if money.  The father assured him that the farm was his, but he should be happy because “your brother” has been lost and is now found.  The father made sure that family realationships were properly maintained.  The father, no doubt, forgave the older son and the two were undoubtedly  reconciled by the son participating in the feast.

Both sons could be called “prodigal” because both had veered off the moral path of behavior.  But the same can be said of us who have often veered off the moral path. We can find forgiveness and reconciliation when we acknowledge our guilt, express our sorrow, and accept the subsequent responsibilities.

Rembrandt, The Return of the Prodigal Son, 166...

Rembrandt, The Return of the Prodigal Son, 1662–1669 (Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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