Fr. Santosh Madanu: The Prodigal Son

Sermon delivered on Lent 4C, Sunday, March 31, 2019 at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Westerville, OH.

If you prefer to listen to the audio podcast of today’s sermon, click here.

Lectionary texts: Joshua 5.9-12; Psalm 32; 2 Corinthians 5.16-21; Luke 15.1-3, 11b-32.

Prayer:  Lord Jesus, you help us through the parable of prodigal son, the spiritual lesson, that we are meant to receive your life, your love and mercy as a gift from you.  Enlighten our minds to set our hearts on your infinite mercy and forgiveness. We make our prayer through Christ our Lord. Amen.

The interesting thing about today’s Gospel parable is that it is such a down to earth, that one way other we are all connected to this story.

The so called prodigal son wants to leave home, wants to have his own way and wants to have independence from the family.  This is something some of us have experienced as a youth.  It is very natural occurrence.  The desire to leave home and have our own space is absolutely normal and at the same time necessary.  Sooner or later we will have to take flight from the comfort of our parents and guardians.  But whereas, the prodigal son goes wrong, when he found independence to reject fathers’ love, the family values, cultural system and tradition.

There is great search for happiness and fulfillment in life then and now.  Today’s society emphasizes on sensual and material enjoyment.  The problem was that the prodigal son thought he could find happiness by satisfying his desires whether moral or immoral.   

What can we learn from Jesus Christ’s parables of the prodigal son?  In the world of broken relationships, it taches us a lesson of dep love and hope.   A key lesson of the parable of prodigal son is always hope for reconciliation. In the parable Father represents our heavenly God the Father.

Let us reflect the story.   A man had two sons.  One day the younger one came to him with a demand:   he wanted an early disbursement of his inheritance. And taking his portion of wealth he traveled to far distance country. Which means the son no longer wanted to live under his father’s roof. He no longer wants to walk with his father (Amos 3:3)

Could it be that the son had emotionally left the home long before he physically walked out of the door?

In time the son burned through his money and found himself penniless.  Immoral living with his friends and high living, beyond his means, reduced him to do manual labor.  Today it is easy to spend money on super comforts and super luxurious things. His friends were with him as long as he had money.  He had no satisfaction of his life.  He began to evaluate his situation.

What would you do in such a situation? Would pride prevent you from returning home or restoring the relationship?  Would stubbornness push you toward self?

Perhaps you actually find yourself at present in a position (situation) similar to that of that of the prodigal son.  You have been estranged from a parent or a friend and feel you cannot return to him or her.  You can’t bring yourself to pick up the phone or reach out and begin to mend a broken relationship.  It is sad feature of life today.  We are connected by so much social media yet can’t always connect at the deepest level of love and meaning.  You can have hundreds and thousands of friends on Facebook but all alone in your life at the most critical moments.  It is vital to have good friends to receive counsel, encouragement and support.  It is necessary to have fellowship to keep relationship open for love and care.

Returning to Christ story, it now reaches the most critical point.  The young man comes to his senses when he realizes the servants in his father’s home have plenty of food and do not go hungry.  He says “I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, Father I have sinned against heaven and before you….imagine the moment of humility, he is at the end of his rope.  All his natural confidence is gone, he realizes he can’t go forward on his own.  He decided he must return home.  The journey is now at its most crucial moment.

It is never too late.

How many of us waiting for our brother or sister, mother or father, friend or relative to return to you- back to have relationship that have been severed long ago?  We have not lost hope. We wait for a letter, an email, a call or to footsteps on the path to your house. You and I personally need to take initiate to call them.  Let us not wait for many months and years.  Because the lost time can’t be regained.

There was news sometime in the past carried the story about 87 year old man who was reunited with his daughter after 40 years.  He had divorced her mother when the daughter was four, and he last saw her when she was 12.  For more than 40 years he didn’t see his child.  She grew up, married, and had children and grandchildren.  One day she called him on the phone and said, “This is Dona, your daughter.”  The man discovered he had a family he knew nothing about.  He quickly agreed to meet and began making up for the lost time, knowing time could not be regained but determined not to allow any more to be lost.

This is how it will be one day, for those who wait with prayer, fasting and alms giving.  The prodigals will return.  They will be moment to say, I want a relationship once again with you.  In today’s parable it is not we wait for our Father God rather He waits on us to welcome us back home.  In all the religions of the world, human being is seeking for God where as in Jewish –Christian, God is seeking for us.

A message about deep love

Jesus Christ gave this parable to encourage families. God’s great plan of salvation is based on relationships on the family structure and fellowships. This is the law of love- the love of the parent for the child. The deep love of the father for his children.  This parable is about each one of us. God the Father stands waiting for the time when each of His children will at last realize the need for a lasting and satisfying relationship with Him.  And God’s deep desire to bring the reconciliation within His creation.

Holding out Hope

The parable of lost son is a parable for today.  It offers hope for all who long for reconciliation.   Reconciliation with son, parent or friend.

 Even the hope is deferred and heart is sick, there is the promise of hope will blossom into a tree of life (Proverbs13:12)

The Father’s years of hope and longing are summed in the declaration,” This son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found” Luke 15:24.

We may think this is a good place to end.  But Jesus wants us to know the reaction of the elder son.

And how do we react in this situation for our brother or sister who left the home for their pleasure and selfishness?

The older brother in the story honored his father and helped in the business. But in fact he was not having true loving relationship with his father and he was not happy with his brother.  He too was selfish.  He too was very disobedient. His heart was with hatred and selfishness. He demonstrated the dislike, intolerance and hostility which is opposing the compassionate loving nature of his own father.

He is not only angry with his brother but angry with his father too.  He feels favoritism and he feels indifference in treatment as a manifested injustice by his father.

He refused to join the party.  On hearing of his son’s anger, the father pleaded him to join in welcoming home his brother.  But he couldn’t because, as he put it: “These many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; yet you never gave me young goat that I might make merry with my friends.  But as soon as this son of yours came, who have devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him”.  Luke 15: 29-30

Once again the father showed wisdom:  “Son, you are always with me, and all I have is yours.  It was right that we should celebrate and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found”.

We need to have unbroken bond with our loving Father God.  The loyalty, dependability and trust should prove that we don’t need party or grand celebration to demonstrate God’s love for us.  Because we are already sharing His infinite love and experiencing His unending care for us.

*There is always hope for the reconciliation.  Never to give up.

What do the actions of prodigal son teach us?

They teach us the depths to which our own misuse of freedom will bring us bad consequences.  If we are bent on leaving God, things will go badly for us.  We will be humiliated in the uncaring world.  The farther we get from the Father’s loving care, the worse off we will be, and our best course is to return to God and His forgiveness.

What do the actions of the father teaches us?

The first lesson is that the father will not treat a son as a hired servant.   The younger son is still a son!

As a result, his returning is something to be celebrated! 

Father tells his second son “Son you are always with me.”  This means a reassurance to the elder son that he has not lost his place in the family.  His place is secured. And father tells the elder son” and all that is mine is yours. This is because the division of property has already been taken place.  The younger son took his third, so the two-thirds that remain will go entirely to the older son.

The spiritual lessons from this parable we can draw are:

* When we turn our backs on our heavenly Father, mortal sin is a real possibility.  Therefore as we enjoy free will we need to seek God’s will for us.

* This shows us God’s reaction towards us when we return from being lost in sin and bad decisions.

* God loves every one equally.   God loves sinner and saints in the same way.  Let us come to the bosom of tender compassionate God the Father. Amen.