Reflection Sunday 11 September
Reading: Luke 15:1-32
Today’s Gospel has spoken to me in a special way since I became a father. At that moment, I understood unconditional love in a more immediate, visceral way instead of it being some kind of intellectual exercise. Part of the wisdom of the parable (called the Prodigal Son but better called the Loving Father) is using the analogy of parental love to help us to understand God’s love for us. Parables also have the ‘hook in the tail’ that challenges or overturns our thinking. Thus the character of the ‘good son’ challenges our thinking about what he should be entitled to. I’m sure many of us can see ourselves as the ‘good child’, doing the right things. But as was originally observed in the Book of Proverbs with nuances from John Henry Newman and others – goodness is its own reward. Another factor to consider is what is the basis of this goodness: duty or love? If we do what is right out of duty, this is the mindset that ‘keeps score’ and is not far from legalism, meritocracy and entitlement. Rather, if we do the right thing out of love, there is freedom there. When we act with love, we spread God around.
This rich parable has many lessons. It can also provide us with a choice: will I act with duty? Or will I act with love and compassion? We can think the choice is clear – until we examine our own lives.