Sunday of the Prodigal Son
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11 And he said, "There was a man who had two sons;
12 and the younger of them said to his father, 'Father, give me the share of property that falls to me.' And he divided his living between them.
13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took his journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in loose living.
14 And when he had spent everything, a great famine arose in that country, and he began to be in want.
15 So he went and joined himself to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed swine.
16 And he would gladly have fed on the pods that the swine ate; and no one gave him anything.
17 But when he came to himself he said, 'How many of my father's hired servants have bread enough and to spare, but I perish here with hunger!
18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you;
19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me as one of your hired servants."'
20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was yet at a distance, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.
21 And the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.'
22 But the father said to his servants, 'Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet;
23 and bring the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and make merry;
24 for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.' And they began to make merry.
25 "Now his elder son was in the field; and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing.
26 And he called one of the servants and asked what this meant.
27 And he said to him, 'Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has received him safe and sound.'
28 But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him,
29 but he answered his father, 'Lo, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command; yet you never gave me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends.
30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your living with harlots, you killed for him the fatted calf!'
31 And he said to him, 'Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.
32 It was fitting to make merry and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.'"
11Εἶπεν δέ, Ἄνθρωπός τις εἶχεν δύο υἱούς.
12καὶ εἶπεν ὁ νεώτερος αὐτῶν τῷ πατρί, Πάτερ, δός μοι τὸ ἐπιβάλλον μέρος τῆς οὐσίας. ὁ δὲ διεῖλεν αὐτοῖς τὸν βίον.
13καὶ μετ' οὐ πολλὰς ἡμέρας συναγαγὼν πάντα ὁ νεώτερος υἱὸς ἀπεδήμησεν εἰς χώραν μακράν, καὶ ἐκεῖ διεσκόρπισεν τὴν οὐσίαν αὐτοῦ ζῶν ἀσώτως.
14δαπανήσαντος δὲ αὐτοῦ πάντα ἐγένετο λιμὸς ἰσχυρὰ κατὰ τὴν χώραν ἐκείνην, καὶ αὐτὸς ἤρξατο ὑστερεῖσθαι.
15καὶ πορευθεὶς ἐκολλήθη ἑνὶ τῶν πολιτῶν τῆς χώρας ἐκείνης, καὶ ἔπεμψεν αὐτὸν εἰς τοὺς ἀγροὺς αὐτοῦ βόσκειν χοίρους:
16καὶ ἐπεθύμει χορτασθῆναι ἐκ τῶν κερατίων ὧν ἤσθιον οἱ χοῖροι, καὶ οὐδεὶς ἐδίδου αὐτῷ.
17εἰς ἑαυτὸν δὲ ἐλθὼν ἔφη, Πόσοι μίσθιοι τοῦ πατρός μου περισσεύονται ἄρτων, ἐγὼ δὲ λιμῷ ὧδε ἀπόλλυμαι.
18ἀναστὰς πορεύσομαι πρὸς τὸν πατέρα μου καὶ ἐρῶ αὐτῷ, Πάτερ, ἥμαρτον εἰς τὸν οὐρανὸν καὶ ἐνώπιόν σου,
19οὐκέτι εἰμὶ ἄξιος κληθῆναι υἱός σου: ποίησόν με ὡς ἕνα τῶν μισθίων σου.
20καὶ ἀναστὰς ἦλθεν πρὸς τὸν πατέρα ἑαυτοῦ. ἔτι δὲ αὐτοῦ μακρὰν ἀπέχοντος εἶδεν αὐτὸν ὁ πατὴρ αὐτοῦ καὶ ἐσπλαγχνίσθη καὶ δραμὼν ἐπέπεσεν ἐπὶ τὸν τράχηλον αὐτοῦ καὶ κατεφίλησεν αὐτόν.
21εἶπεν δὲ ὁ υἱὸς αὐτῷ, Πάτερ, ἥμαρτον εἰς τὸν οὐρανὸν καὶ ἐνώπιόν σου, οὐκέτι εἰμὶ ἄξιος κληθῆναι υἱός σου.
22εἶπεν δὲ ὁ πατὴρ πρὸς τοὺς δούλους αὐτοῦ, Ταχὺ ἐξενέγκατε στολὴν τὴν πρώτην καὶ ἐνδύσατε αὐτόν, καὶ δότε δακτύλιον εἰς τὴν χεῖρα αὐτοῦ καὶ ὑποδήματα εἰς τοὺς πόδας,
23καὶ φέρετε τὸν μόσχον τὸν σιτευτόν, θύσατε καὶ φαγόντες εὐφρανθῶμεν,
24ὅτι οὗτος ὁ υἱός μου νεκρὸς ἦν καὶ ἀνέζησεν, ἦν ἀπολωλὼς καὶ εὑρέθη. καὶ ἤρξαντο εὐφραίνεσθαι.
25ην δὲ ὁ υἱὸς αὐτοῦ ὁ πρεσβύτερος ἐν ἀγρῷ: καὶ ὡς ἐρχόμενος ἤγγισεν τῇ οἰκίᾳ, ἤκουσεν συμφωνίας καὶ χορῶν,
26καὶ προσκαλεσάμενος ἕνα τῶν παίδων ἐπυνθάνετο τί ἂν εἴη ταῦτα.
27ὁ δὲ εἶπεν αὐτῷ ὅτι Ὁ ἀδελφός σου ἥκει, καὶ ἔθυσεν ὁ πατήρ σου τὸν μόσχον τὸν σιτευτόν, ὅτι ὑγιαίνοντα αὐτὸν ἀπέλαβεν.
28ὠργίσθη δὲ καὶ οὐκ ἤθελεν εἰσελθεῖν. ὁ δὲ πατὴρ αὐτοῦ ἐξελθὼν παρεκάλει αὐτόν.
29ὁ δὲ ἀποκριθεὶς εἶπεν τῷ πατρὶ αὐτοῦ, Ἰδοὺ τοσαῦτα ἔτη δουλεύω σοι καὶ οὐδέποτε ἐντολήν σου παρῆλθον, καὶ ἐμοὶ οὐδέποτε ἔδωκας ἔριφον ἵνα μετὰ τῶν φίλων μου εὐφρανθῶ:
30ὅτε δὲ ὁ υἱός σου οὗτος ὁ καταφαγών σου τὸν βίον μετὰ πορνῶν ἦλθεν, ἔθυσας αὐτῷ τὸν σιτευτὸν μόσχον.
31ὁ δὲ εἶπεν αὐτῷ, Τέκνον, σὺ πάντοτε μετ' ἐμοῦ εἶ, καὶ πάντα τὰ ἐμὰ σά ἐστιν:
32εὐφρανθῆναι δὲ καὶ χαρῆναι ἔδει, ὅτι ὁ ἀδελφός σου οὗτος νεκρὸς ἦν καὶ ἔζησεν, καὶ ἀπολωλὼς καὶ εὑρέθη.
Larger Thought Unit
Luke 15:1-32 consists of an introduction (vv.1-3) and then 3 parables, two of which are unique to Luke’s gospel: the woman with the lost coin and our reading today of the prodigal son. The chapter begins with the publicans and sinners coming to listen to Christ while the Scribes and Pharisees are murmuring against him. An inclusio ends the chapter with the elder brother murmuring and complaining about the father’s reception and feasting at the return of his prodigal son. Interspersed throughout the 3 parables are keywords which link them together: joy/rejoice, lost/found, and repentance.
The younger son is representative of the Gentiles: away from his father’s house; living with the harlots (harlotry is a metaphor for apostasy in the Old Testament) and the swine (unclean animals in the Old Testament).
The older son, representative of the Jews, lives in his father’s house and works in the ‘field’ where one uses a ‘yoke,’ reminiscent of the yoke of the Mosaic Law. See earlier Lk 14:18-19 where the first called, representative of the Jews, used the excuse of having bought a field and five yoke of oxen (a reference to the five books of Moses) for not coming to the feast, just as the older brother does here. See also Acts 15.10 (Now therefore why do you make trial of God by putting a yoke upon the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?) and Gal 5.1-4 (For freedom Christ has set us free; stand fast therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Now I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who receives circumcision that he is bound to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace). Christ invites us to be under the gentle ‘yoke’ (Mt 11:28-30) of his law (Gal 6.2).
Each of the two brothers sinned and cannot be saved except by entering the father’s house and joining in the ‘joy’ of the festivity and by accepting the father’s condition, namely, that the house is his and there only his will prevails:
- After having sinned, the younger brother wanted to impose the conditions of his repentance by ‘punishing himself,’ thus showing himself to be self-righteous. He didn’t grasp that his salvation lay in his father’s mercy that is bound to the father’s conditions. The younger brother’s ultimate sin is to be the judge of what his father’s mercy is all about and that he is not worthy of it. He doesn’t realize that, although we are not—and shall never be—worthy of his mercy, God is still merciful.
- The same applies to the older brother who erred in assuming that his ‘joy’ can be independent of the joy of the father’s house, which joy is essentially fatherly and thus includes ‘all’ the members of the household. Notice how the thread that links the three parables of Luke 15 is that the real joy of the kingdom lies is ‘sharing’ the joy of the Father: “Rejoice with me (συγχάρητέ μοι,), for I have found my sheep which was lost” (v.6); “Rejoice with me (συγχάρητέ μοι,), for I have found the coin which I had lost” (v.9). The older brother wanted to make merry (εὐφρανθῶ) separately with his ‘own’ friends (v.29) instead of making merry (εὐφρανθῆναι) in sharing the joy (χαρῆναι) of his father, together with his friends, all under one roof (v.32). Making merry outside the father’s house excludes us from the eschatological joy of the kingdom.
Charles H. Talbert, Reading Luke, Smith & Helwys, Macon, GA, 2002; pp. 177-181.
Paul Nadim Tarazi, New Testament Introduction, Vol.2: Luke and Acts, St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, Crestwood, NY, 2001; pp.124-6.