The parable of the prodigal son

by Shiu Lan
Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Exodus 32:7-11, 13-14

1 Timothy 1:12-17

Luke 15:1-32

This Sunday's Gospel Reading is about the familiar parable of the prodigal son that we have heard many times before.

If we are to identify with one of the sons, who are we? It is easy to see ourselves as the dutiful and filial elder child who stood by our fathers and fulfilled the obligation to our families. It is hard to see ourselves as the reckless, inconsiderate, selfish and greedy younger son.

But today as I read and reflect on the gospel passage again, I could not help feeling that we might be the younger son returning to God the Father. When we are young and start to face the world, do we not place our full attention on worldly things? We lose no time in setting our goals in life, pursuing them, seeking achievement and success, looking for that star in the sky. A lot of planning is going on, planning our lives, careers, finances and even a cozy retirement. We think that we are in control. Yes we do not forget the faith formation we received, we continue to go to Mass and practice our faith, even pray occasionally. But where is God in our plans?

Then at some point in our lives, after cloudy skies and rainy days, our plans may be dampened and may have lost luster. We may have stumbled and fell in our earthly journey. Or we may have soared so high, become so successful that it seems like we are on top of the world. We may have more money than we can ever spend. Then something strikes us. We come to realize that all things will pass. All the earthly riches and glories will fade away. We are going to leave this world the same way as we entered it. How foolish are we to have put our sweats, our energy and our best on things that do not last? Then like the prodigal son, we begin to seek and find God again in our lives. Should we be fearful that God the Father will forsake or disown us when we return to Him? No, we are assured by Jesus through the parable of this Sunday's gospel reading that if we truly repent like the prodigal son did, God the Father will have compassion on us and welcome us as the father welcomed the prodigal son and “put his arms around him and kissed him.” (Luke 15: 20)