Fourth Sunday of Lent
Lk 15:1-3, 11-32
March 27, 2022

Did it work? Did the emotional and heartfelt plea of the father win over the anger and bitter resentment of the older brother? Did he leave his work and join the celebration? Did he welcome his brother home?

Jesus leaves us to ponder the ending of this family saga.

The tax collectors and sinners who heard Jesus weave this tale probably imagined an ending much differently than the Pharisees and scribes who were also listening.

Those with a “checkered past” were quite likely focused on the plain meaning of the parable: God rejoices in the return of a repentant sinner. Immediately identifying with the wayward son and overjoyed by the encouragement the story offers, they quite possibly ended the story at the celebration.

The Pharisees and scribes, by contrast, are described by Luke as “complaining.” Jesus was revealing God’s infinite mercy and forgiveness. They rejected this Divine revelation. They saw things much differently. For them, God sits on a seat of justice. Sinners are to be punished, not forgiven, and certainly not rewarded with a celebration.

Their sympathies were drawn to the loyal, hardworking, and law-abiding son, with whom they closely identified. Their sense of self-righteousness clouded their vision. For them, the inexcusable…unforgivable offenses of the self-indulgent brother were compounded by what they must have perceived as a further example of the foolishness and incompetence of the father. To describe them as “complaining” is quite likely an understatement.

And while Jesus provides no ending to the parable, we know with certainty how things ended for the Pharisees and scribes. They were complicit in Jesus’s arrests, sham trial, and execution. They ended the story by killing The Story Teller. But they could not “kill the story.” The Good News that Jesus brought continues to live, offering hope to sinners!

Clearly, this is a lesson about the joy that God feels when “what is lost is found.” But the Gospel passage reporting the parable provides another extremely important lesson. The “complainers” teach us the consequences of missing an opportunity.

So, what kind of ending would you write to the tale of the prodigal son? Did the emotional and heartfelt plea of the father have any impact on you?

(Hint: If you take full advantage of the opportunities that the Lenten Season offers…you will end the story…and your own earthly life…with one short sentence. And they ALL lived happily ever after!)