Reflection on Luke 15.1-3, 11-32 (Lent)

The prodigal son said: I will get up and go to my father.

This parable is one of the best known passages from scripture. It has long been associated with the Lenten journey. It speaks of a young son who, in his folly, separates himself from his loving father, but then realises his stupidity and finds the strength to seek forgiveness. In those few words we see all that should be shaping our journeys through Lent.

We do not have to set out to separate ourselves from our loving heavenly Father … we achieve that every day of our lives. Every time we cross the boundaries set by the teachings of Jesus we trespass into the realm of the devil. As we become settled and comfortable in a life of self-indulgence we are nestling into an eternal embrace, but the embracing arms are the arms of the devil and not our loving Father. As we strive to improve our lot no matter who might be harmed in the process, we are lining up with the forces of evil, and not the angelic host. However we look at it, we are sinful creatures because we so readily focus on the negative rather than on our privileged position of being made in the image of God.

The parable of the prodigal son gives us hope when we might be on the point of giving up. As we become increasingly focused on self, and as we become more and more comfortable in the company of the devil and all his works, we need to look for the outstretched hand. That outstretched hand is the hand of our loving heavenly Father who, despite all we might do, is always ready to welcome us home and to lead the celebrations at our repentance.

There will be those who resent the forgiveness that we are able to receive from God. There will be those who place themselves in the role of judge and jury and will seek to pass a sentence of eternal condemnation. Such people will point the finger of blame and they will be vocal in their scepticism about our returning to Christ’s sheepfold. When that happens we need to pause and pray for those angry people, no matter who they might be. We need to give thanks that we saw God’s outstretched hand, and that we found the strength to grasp it. Then we need to pray for the angry and the vengeful, that they might come to realise just how deep in the devil’s embrace they are. We need to pray that they might also grasp the outstretched hand in faith, find the humility to admit their faults, and return once again into the community of faith, renewed and reinvigorated for the mission God has prepared for them.