Then the son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.”
The characters, the scenario, the family dynamics, are so familiar to us. It is real.
And it is true in all the ways that matter, of course, for in one way or another we have lived this story. From one viewpoint or another, this experience has probably been ours.
This also must have been so for Jesus’ first listeners. Only they, perhaps more than many of us, held close a whole lot of other stories passed down from generation to generation. Stories of other fathers and other sons…
The parable of the two sons is one of the most read parables that Jesus told. It rings a bell with almost everyone who has experienced jealousy in one position or the other. Either you have been the son who took from your parents and fled town or you were the son who stayed behind to work in the family business. In either case both sons in the parable probably needed to ask forgiveness from their father just as the son who came to his senses did.
The full recognition of our sins comes only after we have hit rock bottom and we can see no other option for life. To ask for forgiveness is a last ditch effort to live again in a loving relationship with God our father. The prodigal son who left home with his inheritance had to hit rock bottom before he realized what a gift it was to be in a loving and lasting relationship with his father. The prodigal son who stayed at home had already received his inheritance too, but he chose to stick with the family business. Yet his prodigal nature came out clear and loud when his brother returned home asking for forgiveness. Jealousy took hold of him so that he would not forgive his brother.
I have experienced the jealous sister syndrome myself. As the younger sister of my brother (7 years older than me) I often wondered why he got more allowance money than I did. He got to go places in the family car and I had to have one of my parents or my brother take me to visit friends and to events. Even after I got a driver’s license I had to have one of them go along. So most of my adolescent years I begrudged being the youngest child. I never acted out my jealousy in an outpouring of spite, but it was there. It wasn’t until I left home for college that the jealousy lost a, stronghold on me, and I began to appreciate and enjoy my older brother more and more. How about you?
- What experiences have you had with jealousy, or in what ways have you experienced being a prodigal from a loving God?
- Have you also experienced asking God for forgiveness of those attitudes and feelings that controlled your behavior?
If you have asked for forgiveness, what changes came to you as a result of being forgiven?
Sue is NLS Spiritual Director, since 2019 and is a retired Lutheran Pastor (ELCA). Active in VdC since 1995, she has served two terms on the Board of the Texas VdC Secretariat, and also on the Texas Gulf Coast VdC Board as Spiritual Director since its start-up in 2017.