On this fourth Sunday of Lent, our Gospel is the story of the prodigal son. If you are like me, the story is so powerful that I miss how this Gospel starts. A mixed audience has gathered to hear Jesus speak — “tax collectors and sinners,” and “Pharisees and scribes.” The latter complain because Jesus welcomes sinners and eats with them. The Pharisees and scribes are law-abiding good people, so in our contemporary language, they are asking: What’s the point of being good when bad people get loved and forgiven by God? So Jesus tells a family story about a playboy young son, a loving father and an older son. It’s easy to identify with this story because in many families there is unevenness. In this one, the difficult child absorbs his dad’s time and attention and money. So we can understand the older son’s resentment when the father throws a party to welcome “this son of mine [who] was dead … was lost and has been found.” This multilayered story speaks to us in several ways. Jesus is challenging the Pharisees and scribes to have the compassion and forgiveness of the father. Is that our challenge? Or perhaps we, like the young son, have at times been lost and then found by the Lord, saved, and so we are called to give thanks and welcome home others who are lost. Or perhaps others of us who have lived as faithful and good disciples might feel resentful, unappreciated, taken for granted in various ways like the older son; resentment can make us judgmental. This story ends with these words of the father to his older son: “My son, you are here with me always; everything I have is yours.” What a wonderful affirmation of the older son. I wonder if he could hear it, through his resentment? It had been his privilege to be in a loving, faithful relationship with his father for years, years the returning son can never get back. If we have been more like the faithful older son, through the grace of God, perhaps we can understand how our relationship of fidelity and union with the Lord is the way we have been saved during our lives. Then we can rejoice instead of resenting it when others are saved in different ways.
— Blog entry by Sister Mary Garascia