Fourth Sunday of Lent (March 31, 2019)
We have just heard Jesus tell us a very familiar story – a story of arrogance, foolishness, loss, and humility; a story of love which forgives and celebrates; a story of anger, hurt pride and invitation to learn.
The father stands at the center of the story – a person filled with unconditional love. The father is willing to give all to his children. The younger son presumes on his father’s generosity and then foolishly wastes what he’s been given. His father is waiting patiently for him to come to his senses and runs out to embrace him when he returns. The father’s all-embracing love is capable of accepting his son in all his foolishness and welcoming him home with a party.
The older son is angry at his brother’s return and hurt that his father is so generous with someone so foolish. What he’s seeing simply isn’t fair. We’re told that his father comes out of the party and we hear him invite his son to grow – to learn to see with his father’s eyes, with the eyes of love.
It’s probably easy for us to identify with the younger son. There have been times when we have arrogantly and foolishly chosen to have our own way and we’ve experienced our own disasters in the process. How generous our God has been with his forgiveness!
We might even find ourselves in the place of the older son. We try so hard to be faithful and watch as others live as they want. It’s doesn’t seem fair that forgiveness is so free. What about us who try so hard?
The point of Jesus’ story is that we are invited to take the place of the father.
We’re invited to discipline ourselves to love unconditionally. We’re invited to discipline ourselves to forgive unconditionally because that’s what love does. We’re invited to discipline ourselves not to make judgments about others. Love accepts each person where he or she is at the moment. We’re invited to learn to trust that our efforts to love are pleasing to God. Our God is always loving us unconditionally, and everything God has is ours.
Jesus never tells us the ending of the story. Perhaps that is our invitation. Are we willing to come in and join the celebration? Are we willing to discipline ourselves to love as our Father loves us?