Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So he told them this parable:
Then Jesus said, “There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them. A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need.
So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.”’
So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.
“Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.’ Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him.
But he answered his father, ‘Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’
Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’”
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.
I reread Henri Nouwen’s The Return of the Prodigal Son, a reflection on Rembrandt’s painting of the same name, which shows the younger son’s return home. Nouwen was famously struck by this image’s depiction of the two sons and their father. It is the spiritual destiny of each of us to become like the father in the parable, Nouwen writes. We need only look to the father’s open hands.
An open hand holds onto nothing: no secrets, no weapons, no money, no pride. Unlike the younger son who grasps at wealth and the older son who holds fast to his own ego, the father lets go, releases his own desires in patient trust that God is at work. And in so doing, his hands are open, then, in welcome, healing and compassion when his children find their way home.
Are our hands grasping at something, or open to God?
—Eric Clayton is a senior communications manager at the Jesuit Conference.
I am full of wishes,
full of desires,
full of expectations.
Some of them may be realized, many may not,
but in the midst of all my satisfactions
I hope in you.
I know that you will never leave me alone
and will fulfill your divine promises.
Even when it seems that things are not going my way,
I know that they are going your way
and that, in the end, your way is the
best way for me.
O Lord, strengthen my hope,
especially when my many wishes are not fulfilled.
Let me never forget that your name is Love.
—Henri NouwenPlease share the Good Word with your friends!