The three parables in the gospel speak of things lost and found and emphasise the unending forgiveness of God and God’s rejoicing for those who return. In each of the situations there is a frantic search for that which is lost and a huge celebration when the lost is found.
In the third parable of the Prodigal Son there is much to reflect on. We hear that the younger brother eventually ‘came to his senses’. We might pray today that God shows us the aspects of our lives in which we also need to ‘come to our senses’.
As with all parables, we are left thinking and wondering, disturbed even. A sheep and a coin we can rejoice over, but when it is a person who has done us harm, hurt us in some way, it is a much deeper and more painful process. The elder brother in the third parable feels hard done by, is deeply hurt, full of anger and resentment. Luke, being the excellent storyteller that he is, does not tell us the outcome of the story; it is for us to finish for ourselves. The elder brother has two options: he can walk away full of resentment or he can try to let go of the anger he feels towards his brother. The latter is a more difficult path but it is the only one that leads to life, no matter how painful the journey may be. The father stands there pleading for the elder brother to come in. Forgiveness isn’t about releasing someone from accountability for his actions. It is about us letting go of our anger and resentment.
©Jane Mellett, Intercom Magazine, Veritas, Dublin.