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4th Sunday of Lent – All Encompassing Love


“Now the older son had been out in the field and, on his way back, as he neared the house, he heard the sound of music and dancing. He called one of the servants and asked what this might mean. The servant said to him, ‘Your brother has returned and your father has slaughtered the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ He became angry, and when he refused to enter the house, his father came out and pleaded with him. He said to his father in reply, ‘Look, all these years I served you and not once did I disobey your orders; yet you never gave me even a young goat to feast on with my friends. But when your son returns who swallowed up your property with prostitutes, for him you slaughter the fattened calf.’ He said to him, ‘My son, you are here with me always; everything I have is yours. But now we must celebrate and rejoice, because your brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found’” (Luke 15:25-32).
 
Jesus was asked by the Pharisees and scribes why he welcomed “sinners” and ate with them. His response was to tell a parable of two sons. Not only a story of forgiveness and reconciliation, this parable captured the essence of God’s relationship with his children. This divine relationship between God and his children is characterized by unconditional, ever-present, unending love.
 
Neither of the two brothers recognized the depth of their father’s love for him. The younger allowed himself to starve before he conceded, out of desperation, for the chance that his father would accept his return. The elder was bitter and filled with resentment.
 
Perhaps the brothers represent two types of people. There are “sinners” who squander their time and resources by separating themselves from true communion with God and often add to their own suffering by thinking they have gone too far to be loved by God. The “too good” people squander their time and resources by working for the wrong reasons and expecting reward based on merit. They believe God should love and reward them, and only them, because of what they have done.
 
When the true depth of love was revealed by the father’s joy at the younger son’s return, it showed that neither the elder nor the younger brother was right.
 
This parable was Jesus’ response to his critics who said that “sinners” did not deserve God’s love. Jesus was challenging them to see that they were like the elder brother who refused to believe that God’s love was deep enough to reach these sinners.
 
Ultimately, we are all invited to be the father in this parable and to give love freely and unconditionally to every child of God.
 
Which character do you most relate to in this parable? Why?

Adapted from Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International.

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