PRODIGAL SON SUNDAY
Jesus went on to say, “There was once a man who had two sons. The younger one said to him, ‘Father, give me my share of the property now.’ So the man divided his property between his two sons. After a few days the younger son sold his part of the property and left home, far away, where he wasted his money in reckless living. He spent everything he had. Then a severe famine spread over that country, and he was left without a thing. So he went to work for one of the citizens of that country, who sent him out to his farm to take care of the pigs. He wished he could fill himself with the bean pods the pigs ate, but no one gave him anything to eat. At last he came to his senses and said, ‘All my father’s hired workers have more than they can eat, and here I am about to starve! I will get up and go to my father and say, Father, I have sinned against God and against you. I am no longer fit to be called your son; treat me as one of your hired workers.’ So he got up and started back to his father.
He was still a long way from home when his father saw him; his heart was filled with pity, and he ran, threw his arms round his son, and kissed him. ‘Father,’ the sons said, ‘I have sinned against god and against you. I am no longer fit to be called your son.’ But the father called his servants. ‘Hurry!’ he said. ‘Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and shoes on his feet. Then go and get the prize calf and kill it, and let us celebrate with a feast! For this son of mine was dead, but now he is alive; he was lost, but now he has been found.’ And so the feasting began.
In the meantime, the elder son was out in the field. On his way back, when he came close to the house, he heard the music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him, ‘What is going on?’ ‘Your brother has come back home,’ the servant answered, ‘and your father has killed the prize calf because he got him back safe and sound.’
The elder brother was so angry that he would not go into the house; so his father came out and begged him to come in. But he answered his father, ‘Look, all these years I have worked for you like a slave, and I have never disobeyed your orders. What have you given me? Not even a goat for me to have a feast with my friends! But this son of yours wasted all your property on loose living and when he comes back home, you kill the prize calf for him!’ ‘My son,’ the father answered, ‘you are always here with me and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be happy, because your brother was dead, but now he is alive; he was lost, but now he has been found.’
KONDAK (Tone 3)
Foolishly I left the splendor of Your Fatherly home* and with wicked men wasted the wealth You gave me. * I cry out to You with the voice of the Prodigal: * “I have sinned before You, merciful Father. * Accept my repentance and make me as one of Your servants.”
During the time of Jesus, for a son to ask his father for his part of the inheritance was like telling the father, I want you to die. It is the greatest insult a son could give his father. Especially among the Jewish families when the family often cared for the father and mother when they grew old.
At Sunday Matins Psalm 137 is sung:
By the rivers of Babylon we sat down;
There we wept when we remembered Zion.
On the willows near by we hung our harps.
Those who captured us told us to sing; they told us to entertain them: “Sing us a song about Zion.”
How can we sing a song to the Lord in a foreign land?
May I never be able to play the harp again if I forget you, Jerusalem!
May I never be able to sing again if I do not remember you, If I do not think of you as my greatest joy!
Psalm 137 is a song of exile. The Jews sang it in their Babylonian captivity as they thought of their holy city of Jerusalem. It has become forever the song of humanity as we realize our exile from God, and realizing it, become human again: the one who can never be fully satisfied by anything in this fallen world, for by nature and vocation we are pilgrims. This Psalm will be sung twice more: on the last two Sundays before Lent. It reveals Lent itself as pilgrimage and repentance – as return.
Great Lent, p.23
The Icon of the Prodigal Son not only reveals the compassionate love of the Father welcoming the Prodigal home; it also shows the elder son. The elder son resents the Father’s welcoming the Prodigal home. The elder son has been faithful and obedient and yet, the Father seems to lavish more love and more attention on the disobedient son.
We are also the elder son in the story when we judge God’s compassionate love of the sinners of the world – the prostitutes, the drug addicts, the drunks, the homeless, the unemployed. How could God love them when I work so hard and am so faithful? Part of this Sunday’s reflection includes acknowledging our self-righteousness and how it keeps us from receiving God’s loving forgiveness.
The parable is called the Prodigal Son but it could just as easily be called the parable of the Loving Father. We must realize that no matter how far we go away from God, the Loving Father is always waiting to welcome us home. We are the Beloved of God and we can rely on the mercy of God. To repent means to return to God. We acknowledge our sinfulness before God and we ask forgiveness.
WHAT CAN I DO IN MY CLASSROOM OR AT HOME?
· Display the Icon of the Prodigal Son and tell the story to the children.
· Recite Psalm 137 as a family or class.
· Act out the story of the Prodigal Son as part of the class.
· Think of ways that we turn away from God and discuss it with the children.
· Go through an examination of Conscience with the children.
· Examine how we are like the elder son of the story.
· Cut out feet and have the children write ways that we can return to God.
· Remind the children that God loves them so much; He will always take them back.