Lent 4th Sunday – RETURN TO THE SOURCE

Lent 4th Sunday

Jos. 5: 9a, 10-12                                   2Cor. 5: 17-21                          Lk. 15: 1-3, 11-32



Some random reflections are given on the parable of the prodigal son.



Like the story of the prodigal son in the Bible, in India there is a story of a prince who was kidnapped by robbers when he was very young. He forgot all about the palace, even about his father and mother. He just grew up as a bandit, learning to master the bow and arrow, ambush passers-by, and disappear without getting caught. Then one day the king’s spiritual teacher (guru) happened to pass by his area. The bandit-turned prince appeared to rob him off. The teacher recognized him though the former prince did not. The teacher addressed him, “Your Royal Highness.” The young man, outraged, pushed him away.

But the teacher’s faith was unshaken. He began to tell the young man stories about his childhood, how his life used to be in the palace. Gradually the prince began to remember. Finally his memory cleared. He drew himself up: ‘Now I recall” he said, as if awakening from a dream. “I am not a bandit. I simply forgot who I was.’ Truly a prince, he went home to his father and mother.

Reflection. 2:

For a repentance to be proper and true, it needs to have three dimensions: intellectual, emotional and spiritual. The younger son underwent an intellectual conversion when he was upset over his past mistakes and the things which he did out of his futile search for freedom and enjoyment. He examined his present life with his former life at home. It led him to ‘come to himself’ (vs. 17). This intellectual conversion led to emotional conversion which basically involves feeling sorry for one’s sins and wrongdoings. It is demonstrated in his words: “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you.” Spiritual conversion involves actual return to the father, confess one’s sins and get united to God, the Father.  The younger son not only felt bad about his sins, but he further returned to his father, confessed his unworthiness and got reconciled with his father.

If repentance does not cover all these three dimensions of conversion, then it is not complete. There are people who have intellectual conversion which does not become emotional and spiritual. There are also people who have both intellectual and emotional conversion (i.e. They feel bad about their wrongdoings etc.,) but do not do much to amend their faults permanently and return to God. It has to be kept in mind that Augustine had two conversions: one in his head and the other in his heart. At age 25, he converted to Christianity, intellectually. That is, after years of experimenting with various pagan philosophies and ways of living, he was now convinced in his head that Christianity was correct. But he had a real conversion from his heart at the age of 34 only. Only then he made a very famous statement: ‘Knowledge alone cannot save us.’ This emotional conversion further led him to spiritual conversion.

Reflection. 3:

The parable of the prodigal son also eloquently speaks about the intimate relationship between God, the Paramātma (=Father) and souls, the jivātmas (=sons). The jivātmas first enjoy intimate union with the Paramātma. Later because of false identification, they leave the Paramātma  and corrupt themselves. There are some jivātmas which are physically away from Paramātma by totally indulging in a life of total sensual pleasures. The younger son is an example to this group. There are also people who claim that they are with the Father since they live a life of prayers, values, virtues etc., but in disposition they are much away from the Father. The elder son represents this group. Sufferings and tribulations help jivātmas to become aware of their true nature and facilitate the process of return. As repentant jivātmas, when we return, God sees His own image in us, releases His energy of love, pours His energy into our being, surrounds us with His grace and confirms our transformation.

Reflection. 4:

Frere Pierre Marie, the founder of the Fraternity of Jerusalem, a community of monks, reflects on ‘Jesus as the prodigal son’ in a very poetic and biblical way.  He writes:

“He, who is born not from human stock, or human desire or human will, but from God himself, one day took to himself everything that was under his footstool and he left with his inheritance, his title of Son, and the whole ransom price.  He left for a far country… the faraway land… where he became as human beings are and emptied himself. His own people did not accept him and his first bed was a bed of straw! Like root in arid ground, he grew up before us, he was despised, the lowest of men, before whom one covers his face.

Very soon, he came to know exile, hostility, loneliness, After having given away everything in a life of country, his worth, his peace, his light, his truth, his life …. all the treasures of secret for endless ages; after having lost himself among the lost children of the house of Israel, spending his time with the sick (and not with the well–to–do) with the sinners (and not with the just) and even with the prostitutes to whom he promised entranced into the Kingdom of his Father; after having been treated as a glutton and a drunkard, as a friend of tax  collectors and sinners, as a Samaritan, a possessed, a blasphemer, after having offered everything, even his body and his blood, after having felt deeply in himself sadness, anguish, and a troubled soul; after having gone to the bottom of despair, with which he voluntarily dressed himself as being abandoned by his Father far away form the source of living water, he cried out from the cross on which he was nailed “I am thirsty.” He was laid to rest in dust and the shadow of death.

And there, on the third day, he rose up from the depths of hell to where he had descended, burdened with the crimes of us, all, he bore our sins, our sorrow he carried, standing straight he cried out, ‘Yes, I am ascending to my Father, and your Father, to my God, And your God.’ And he reascended to heaven. Then in the silence, looking at his Son and all his children since his Son had become all in all, 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; let us eat and celebrate! Because my children who, as you know, were dead have returned to life; they were lost and have been found again! My prodigal Son has brought them all back.’ They all began to have a feast dressed in their long robes, washed white in the blood of the lamb.”

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