Fourth Sunday in Lent
Reconciliation and the Prodigal Son
Attitudes reflect our beliefs, our emotional evaluation, and our behaviour towards a person, idea or object. Attitudes affect the way we live. Once we form them, they are almost set in stone forming biases impossible to overcome. For example, most Americans – even after so many fatal shootings, still seem to oppose gun control. They simply believe that they have the right to guns come what may?
Sometimes, however, our attitudes become unbearable – such as can happen if we become estranged from family members. And the only way to overcome the dissonance created by those attitudes – such as anger towards a loved one – and the way they are making us behave is to change our attitude. This takes humility as it requires us to see fault in ourselves.
The prodigal son had to admit that his attitude was wrong. Seemingly, he believed his fathers’ property was his to take, rightfully his due and more important to him than his relationship with his father. We know this kind of selfishness is wrong. But that was his attitude about his father and his property so he took what he could, absconded and only after tribulation came to his senses.
Surprisingly Jesus uses this parable against the Pharisees and Scribes. The Lord’s criticism wasn’t towards the prodigal, but the eldest son. He thought his inheritance was secured – just like the Scribes and Pharisees who thought they had first dibs on religion. Like the eldest son they thought that they were the righteous ones. However, Jesus exposes people like them as falsely righteous and with a heart full of malice. That is the conclusion Our Lord wanted the Scribes/Pharisees to reach about themselves.
We are told this Gospel so we identify ourselves in the story as either the falsely righteous or the prodigal son/daughter. So, are you like the elder son? Luckily I am a prodigal son who left God to pursue money and squandered much on a life of debauchery! And the irony for all prodigal sons is that the true riches we seek come from our relationship with our heavenly Father, and not from what we can take from him by pillaging our Father’s creation.
Dear brothers and sisters don’t let erroneous attitudes prevent you seeing if your life is not at rights with God. Many attitudes keep us from being embraced fully by God. Alienation and estrangement can be a heavy burden. The prodigal son shows us that unburdening ourselves is as simple as coming to our senses and seeking reconciliation with God. By humbly admitting our fault the richness of God’s mercy embraces us.
We may be self-righteous, we may pursue the kingdom of our own selfish ends, we may disagree with Church teachings thinking we know better. We may have estranged ourselves from family through anger and resist seeing fault in ourselves. Whatever our underlying attitude, whatever we have done, when we say “I am a sinner. I no longer deserve to be called your son/daughter!” then we will experience the celebration of our God Who delights in forgiving and absolving our sins.
Like the prodigal son come home, come to the sacrament of reconciliation.