Fourth Sunday of Lent
Joshua 5:9 -12
II Corinthians 5:17-21
Luke 15:1-3, 11-32
Have you ever known someone who you have said,” Everything I have is yours!” Everything I have is yours, and yet you break my heart, you keep me up at night; I shed tears of pain for you all the time. What do we do when we say, “Everything I have is yours,” and the person either squanders all they have been given, or they think what they have been given is not enough.
In our Gospel, there is a Father who has two sons; the younger son comes to the Father and asks for his share of the inheritance that is coming to him. What the son is saying to his Father is, “Father you are dead to me, so give me my share of what is rightly coming to me?” What is amazing is the Father says, “Everything that you have coming to you I give you” and the son goes off squandering it on anything he wants. The Father each day goes to the edge of town, and he looks for his son, I think it is significant that he does not go searching from him, he looks for his son to return. When the younger son returns the Father runs out to him and wraps him in his arms. One reason for this is because of the joy the Father feels for the son, but another reason would be to protect the son from the town’s people hurting him on his return. The younger sons leaving would have caused the Father great shame. When the son returns and gives his prepared speech, the Father doesn’t let him give his speech and once again says, “Everything I have is yours” as he puts a beautiful robe on him, gives him a ring for his finger, and kills the fattened calf, and tells the servants to prepare a huge celebration.
The older son is out working in the fields, and when he hears a celebration going on and hears that his brother has returned, he is furious and refuses to come to the celebration. The Father comes out into the field to get him, this would also be a great sign of disrespect to the Father making him come out to his field. This older son is saying the very same thing the younger son did when he said: “You are dead to me.” When the Father begs for the son to come in the older son says, “I have not been your son, I have been your slave, and you have never thrown me a party.” The Father says, “My son, everything I have is yours.” The correct term would be my “child.” The Father is reaching deep within himself remembering all he has ever done for the son and the older son in response says, “You have given me everything, and it is not enough.”
What do we do when someone we love who we have given everything to either says in return, “I want it now so I can go squander it all, or it is not enough?” We need to reach for the grace to be like the Father who loves, even when it is so painful. To hear we are loved is one thing, to feel ourselves being loved is entirely something different.
However, I think the bigger challenge is how are we like the younger and older sons, when the Father says to us, “I have given you everything” and we have squandered all that has been given to us, or we say, “It is not enough!” Today is about knowing the joy of the Father as we return to him and know his love. We need to know that the Father loves us and he is holding us in his arms no matter what we have done. We gather at a banquet because some hearts are only healed or given the strength to go on by being at this banquet of love. May we, in turn, learn to love as God has loved us?