The tax collectors and the sinners were all seeking the company of Jesus to hear what he had to say, and the Pharisees and the scribes complained. ‘This man’ they said ‘welcomes sinners and eats with them.’ So he spoke this parable to them:
‘A man had two sons. The younger said to his father, “Father, let me have the share of the estate that would come to me.” So the father divided the property between them. A few days later, the younger son got together everything he had and left for a distant country where he squandered his money on a life of debauchery.
‘When he had spent it all, that country experienced a severe famine, and now he began to feel the pinch, so he hired himself out to one of the local inhabitants who put him on his farm to feed the pigs. And he would willingly have filled his belly with the husks the pigs were eating but no one offered him anything. Then he came to his senses and said, “How many of my father’s paid servants have more food than they want, and here am I dying of hunger! I will leave this place and go to my father and say: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as one of your paid servants.” So he left the place and went back to his father.
‘While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with pity. He ran to the boy, clasped him in his arms and kissed him tenderly. Then his son said, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son.” But the father said to his servants, “Quick! Bring out the best robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the calf we have been fattening, and kill it; we are going to have a feast, a celebration, because this son of mine was dead and has come back to life; he was lost and is found.” And they began to celebrate.
‘Now the elder son was out in the fields, and on his way back, as he drew near the house, he could hear music and dancing. Calling one of the servants he asked what it was all about. “Your brother has come” replied the servant “and your father has killed the calf we had fattened because he has got him back safe and sound.” He was angry then and refused to go in, and his father came out to plead with him; but he answered his father, “Look, all these years I have slaved for you and never once disobeyed your orders, yet you never offered me so much as a kid for me to celebrate with my friends. But, for this son of yours, when he comes back after swallowing up your property – he and his women – you kill the calf we had been fattening.”
‘The father said, “My son, you are with me always and all I have is yours. But it was only right we should celebrate and rejoice, because your brother here was dead and has come to life; he was lost and is found.”’
Gospel for the 4th Sunday of Lent
The image of the parable that heads this posting is a little unusual in that it shows women as well as the male characters that are named in the narrative – and they are, presumably, not the ‘women’ presumed and held in bad repute by the elder brother!
They are maybe the wife of the father and mother of the sons, or sisters, or aunts or neighbours. In some way or other they are women that have some care of the men of the parable, men who are all in their way passionate, and all, perhaps, blinkered and selfish.
Possibly the women are that way too. But we don’t get to hear from them in the parable? Why might that be? At other times Jesus makes a point of using women and their lives to tease our minds into a new contemplation of love and of God’s love in particular. Is it that having men only better suited the story? Does he intend us to notice, in this story, the absence of women and their voices?
- Whose voices are not heard in your family and the other groups to which you belong?
- Whose voices are not heard in wider society?
- What difference might their silence make?
- To conflict?
- To conflict resolution?
Image: Plaque. Basilica of the Annunciation, Nazareth. (c) 2017, Allen Morris.