Sermon Reflection for Sunday, March 31, 2019 | Respectfully Submitted by Mal Underwood
On this Fourth Sunday of Lent, the Gospel lesson was one of Mother Mary’s self-proclaimed favorite passages, the parable of the Prodigal Son. In Jesus’ amazing way, he tells stories of spirit and truth that lead us to seek the deeper meaning and strengthen our spiritual understanding of the Kingdom of God. As our heavenly Father tells us, our thoughts are not his thoughts nor are his ways our ways. Jesus’ parables offer us insight into God’s ways and thoughts, requiring our study and discernment to fully grasp their meaning.
As Mother Mary told us Sunday, this parable can be called “A Father’s Love” as much as “The Prodigal Son.” She reminded us of a print that hangs in her office of Rembrandt’s “The Return of the Prodigal Son.” She added details about Rembrandt’s personal life saying that he lived much of it similar to the son in the parable, in a situation of privilege whereby he flaunted his position and squandered money on vane pursuits for himself. The fate that met the prodigal son also met Rembrandt, as he lost his fortune and family and lived in financial distress, grief, and disorder during much of his adulthood. He was eventually forced to sell the rights to his artistic works to pay his debts and have money on which to live.
As we reflect on the circumstances of the prodigal son, we are invited to also view this story through the eyes of his father, who celebrated his younger son’s return with great joy and celebration. The prodigal’s father is a reflection of our Holy Father in heaven, who tells us in the scripture that he does not want to lose a single one of his children to the temptations of the evil one. We are told that when a sinner repents and turns to the redemptive love of our Savior Christ, there is much celebration in heaven, very similar to that in the parable. It is one of the great truths of our spiritual lives – the love of our heavenly Creator receives all who repent and return to Him to be welcomed home in holy love and acceptance.
Another vivid truth for us is the situation with the prodigal’s older brother. He is resentful that he has been an obedient and dutiful son all the while his brother was wasting his inheritance in sinful living. The loving father reminds the older brother that he has always been with him and that all he has is his. Still, the older son refuses to celebrate his brother’s rebirth into the family. His dutiful obedience was no longer the joy and freedom of serving but the resentment of enslavement. The elder brother was lost as well. We learn in this parable that all those who come to God for mercy and redemption will be received and celebrated. Jesus’ story reminds us that our heavenly Father’s love is the overriding, caring power in the universe, and we are to celebrate the return of the lost just as he does. In the meantime, we continue to live under the awesome umbrella of God’s mercy and grace the entire time the lost are being sought, called, and redeemed.
The parable of The Father’s Love reminds us once again of the two greatest commandments – we are called to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, in the same way He loves us. We are to love our neighbors as ourselves, even if they stray from God’s will even when they return broken in body and spirit and needing mercy and grace. We are to welcome them with open arms and celebration that, in the lyrics of the great hymn Amazing Grace, those who once were lost have been found. Thanks be to God!