The parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15:11-23 provided the Fathers of the Church, and provide us with a Lenten reflection to help us deepen our Faith.
A journey that begins with an honest acknowledgement of sin and ends in reconciliation. In the parable we see three points on the journey: Conversion, Contrition and Reconciliation. God our Father opens his arms to urge us forward despite our frequent turning aside. St John Chrysostom says, "The younger son set out into a distant country, not locally departing from God, who is everywhere, but in his heart. For the sinner flees from God that he may stand afar off". St Augustine sees the distant country into which the sinners departs as forgetfulness of God in turning aside from his loving Father each person, as St Ambrose says, "severs himself from Christ" and "is an exile from his country and a citizen of this world. Fitly then does he waste his patrimony who departs from the Church". Every time our conscience is reawakened a new conversion begins. We come to our senses or as the parable puts it, "he came to himself" (V17). St Augustine says, "he brought back his mind to the inward recesses of his conscience".
From this awakening comes true contrition. As the son in the parable says, "I will go to my father and say, "Father I have sinned against heaven and before you" (V18). In this renewed declaration all pretence and dishonesty is done away. It is only when this happens that a true meeting between father and son can take place. Each time a sinner returns to God as Tertullian says he "receives back his former vesture, that state, I mean which Adam lost by his former vesture "transgression". In the moment of conversion the sinner knows he is reconciled by the Fathers love and that he is part of the mystical body which unites him in faith and love to the family of the Church. He says "I will go to my father" (V18a) that is he "is established in the Church by Faith, where there may yet be a lawful and effectual confession of sins".
Through confession we are restored to the father and receive back what we have lost. In the parable the prodigal son is given a ring and a cloak by his father as a sign of his restoration. Ambrose calls the cloak, the cloak of the Holy Spirit and the ring the seal of faith. Now that the reconciled sinner has received from his father the signs of his pledge to new life, he is taken in to the feast which has been prepared for him. A fatted calf is killed for his return. For St Chrysostom and St Augustine and others the fatted calf refers to Christ himself and is of great importance in the argument from Tradition for the sacrificial nature of the Eucharist. "But the father did not himself sacrifice the gift, but gives it to be sacrificed to others. For the father permitting the son consenting thereto by man was sacrificed to others".
There is great rejoicing (V23) because "the food of the father is our salvation; the joy of the father, the redemption of our sins". This feast is none other than the Eucharist. "Those banquets are now celebrated, the Church being enlarged and extended throughout the whole world. For the calf in our Lords Body and Blood is both offered up to the father, and feeds the whole house".
To share the banquet of the Lord presumes a serious striving after a holy life and it is through the Sacrament of Reconciliation that we are given the grace to do so.
St Ambrose 337-397
St Augustine 354-430
St Chrysostom c349-407
(footnotes available on request)
The Parish is part of the Archdiocese of Birmingham registered Charity No. 234216.
Website by Gabriel Media Limited