Tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to Jesus, but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So to them Jesus addressed this parable: “A man had two sons, and the younger son said to his father, ‘Father give me the share of your estate that should come to me.’
So the father divided the property between them. After a few days, the younger son collected all his belongings and set off to a distant country where he squandered his inheritance on a life of dissipation. When he had freely spent everything, a severe famine struck that country, and he found himself in dire need. So he hired himself out to one of the local citizens who sent him to his farm to tend the swine.
From the dawn of creation described in the Book of Genesis, the story of the Bible relates how God created the world to be a place of harmony. The Garden of Eden is a beautiful symbol of this harmonious world. The Promised Land as it’s depicted in our first reading this Sunday, also shows us a vision of what God has in store for the human family. There Joshua leads God’s people into the “land of milk and honey.”
Jesus captures God’s dream for the world in the Gospel story today. It’s the familiar story of the Prodigal Son—better titled “The Father Who Couldn’t Forget.” There our God is portrayed as the parent who waited day after day for his errant child to return. What a beautiful picture of God!
Throughout history—though human beings have strayed constantly, following their own ideas for happiness—God has held fast to a dream of harmony, and made it come true with forgiveness. Jesus—and Christians who seek to follow him—embody that dream in our world today.
In the first reading, where was Joshua and where were the people at the time? Were the people still able to feed on manna that God gave them? Were the people able to enjoy the fruits and the crops that they raised in the promised land?
What does St. Paul say, in the second reading, about those who are “in Christ?” What does he call those who have been reconciled to God through Christ? Who are “ambassadors for Christ?”
This week's Gospel is one of the most famous parables told by Christ. Why did Christ tell this parable? Who was his target audience?
The younger son is sometimes called the “prodigal son” because he wasted his father’s money. But sometimes the father is called “prodigal.” Why is that?
How did the older son react when his younger brother returned home after he realized how he had sinned?
Would the audience of this parable be acting more like the young son or the older son?
by Susan Hines-Brigger
Have a welcome home dinner as if you were the father in the Gospel who is celebrating his son's return.
Give everyone in your family a big hug as if they have been gone for a while and now have come home.
Play a game of lost and found. Have everyone take turns hiding something for everyone else to find.