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Reflection - 4th Sunday of Lent 2010
The Prodigal Son – Luke 15: 1-32


Jesus was the story-teller par excellence. Often we hear Him use parables to teach important lessons. Perhaps one of the best known of these is told in today’s Gospel reading, “The Prodigal Son” with themes of Repentance, New Life, Compassionate Love and Forgiveness. These reflect so powerfully the call of this Lenten Season.

Some years ago in a Retreat experience the director proposed a little different approach when he saw the parable as depicting “three ways of living.” As he examined each of the persons mentioned, he made application to how people look at life differently and make choices accordingly.

The elder Son is envious, judgmental, self-righteous and condescending and addicted to work. He is unable to show affection because of his obsession with “doing” – with “being perfect.” For him life is a huge problem to solve, so relationships are not necessary.

The Prodigal Son, on the other hand, seems irresponsible, restless, always seeking what’s “out there.” However, there is within him a longing for home. “I will arise and go to my father.” That longing brings him back where there is security, acceptance and love.

Finally, the Father’s approach to life is unconditional love. He accepts life (and his sons) as they are, with no reservations. Anchored in the present, he sees everything as gift.

In the prologue of his book, “The Return of the Prodigal Son”, Henri Nouwen speaks of the effect on his life of Rembrandt’s painting. “He led me from the place of being blessed to a place of blessing. I see that my hands have been given me to me to stretch out towards all who suffer, to rest upon the shoulders of all who come and to offer the blessing that emerges from the immensity of God’s love.”

In these words, Henri Nouwen gives the core message of the Parable of the Prodigal Son: We are children of God, given our freedom by the Father who loves us whether we stay or go, whether we have been unfaithful, or resentful or presumptuous.

As we reflect on our own Charism of loving Service and continue our Lenten Journey, may we hear the call to reach out in compassion to “the prodigal” within and around us?

Reflection Questions:

• Which approach best reflects my living?
• Am I in touch with my own neediness?

— Teresa Doyle and Patricia Whittle, PBVM



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