Sixteenth Day of Lent   13 comments

The Return of the Prodigal Son, by Leonello Spada (1576-1622)

Saturday, March 11, 2023

Collect and lections from the Episcopal Lesser Feasts and Fasts Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints


Follow the assigned readings with me this Lent….

Kenneth Randolph Taylor


Micah 7:14-15, 18-20 (Revised English Bible):

Shepherd your people with your crook,

the flock that is your own,

that lives apart on a moor with meadows all around;

let them graze in Bashan and Gilead as in days gone by.

Show us miracles as in the days when you came out of Egypt.

Who is god like you?  You take away guilt,

you forgive the sins of the remnant of your people.

You do not let your anger rage for ever,

for to be merciful is your true delight.

Once more you will show us compassion and wash away our guilt,

casting all our sins into the depths of the sea.

You show faithfulness to Jacob, unfailing mercy to Abraham,

as you swore to our forefathers in days gone by.

Psalm 103:1-14 (Revised English Bible):

Bless the LORD, O my soul;

with all my being I bless his holy name.

Bless the LORD, my soul,

and forget none of his benefits.

He pardons all my wrongdoing and heals all my ills.

He rescues me from death’s pit and crowns me with love and compassion.

He satisfies me with all good in the prime of life,

and my youth is renewed like an eagle’s.

The LORD is righteous in all he does;

he brings justice to all who have been wronged.

He revealed his ways to Moses,

his mighty deeds to the Israelites.

The LORD is compassionate and gracious,

long-suffering and ever faithful;

he will not always accuse or nurse his anger forever.

He has not treated us as our sins deserve

or repaid us according to our misdeeds.

As the heavens tower high over the earth,

so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him.

As far as east is from west,

so far from us has he put away our offences.

As a father has compassion on his children,

so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;

for he knows how we are made,

he remembers that we are but dust.

Luke 15:11-32 (Revised English Bible):

Again he [Jesus] said:

There was once a man who had two sons; and the younger said to the father, ‘Father, give me my share of the property.’  So he divided his estate between them.  A few days later the younger son turned the whole of his share into cash and left for a distant country, where he squandered it in dissolute living.  He had spent it all, when a famine fell upon that country and he began to be in need.  So he went and attached himself to one of the local landowners, who sent him on to his farm to mind the pigs.  He would have been glad to fill his belly with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.  Then he came to his senses: ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more food than they can eat,’ he said, ‘and here I am, starving to death!  I will go at once to my father, and say to him, “Father, I have sinned against God and against you; I am no longer fit to be called your son; treat me as one your hired servants.”‘ So he set out for his father’s house.  But while he was still a long way off his father saw him, and his heart went out to him; he ran to meet him, flung his round him, and kissed him.  The son said, ‘Father, I have sinned against God and against you; I am no longer fit to be called your son.’  But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Fetch a robe, the best we have, and put it on him; put a ring on his finger, and sandals on his feet.  Bring the fatted calf and kill it, and let us celebrate with a feast.  For this son of mine was dead and has come back to life; he was lost and is found.’ And the festivities began.

Now the elder son had been out on the farm; and on his way back, as he approached the house, he heard music and dancing.  He called one of the servants and asked what it meant.  The servant told him, ‘Your brother has come home, and your father has killed the fatted calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ But when he was angry and refused to go in.  His father came out and pleaded with him; but he retorted, ‘You know how I have slaved for you all these years; I have never once disobeyed your orders; yet you never gave me so much as a kid, to celebrate with my friends.  But now that this son of yours turns up, after running through your money with women, you kill the fatted calf for him.’

‘My boy,’ said the father, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.’ How could we fail to celebrate this happy day?  Your brother here was dead and has come back to life; he was lost and has been found.’

The Collect:

Grant, most merciful Lord, to your faithful people pardon and peace, that they may be cleansed from all their sins, and serve you with a quiet mind; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.


Luke 15 contains three parables about being lost and found.  First, a shepherd tending a hundred sheep sought out one lost member of his flock the rejoiced.  Next, a woman sought and found a valuable coin in her home.  Then she rejoiced.  Finally, a patient father looked and waited for the return of wasteful son who had turned his back on his family.  When the son returned, the father rejoiced.

The Encarta World English Dictionary defines “prodigal” (as an adjective) to mean:

  1. EXTRAVAGANTLY WASTEFUL spendthrift or extravagant to a degree bordering on recklessness
  2. PRODUCING GENEROUS AMOUNTS giving or producing something in large amounts
  3. WASTING PARENTAL MONEY BUT STILL LOVED spending parental money wastefully, but returning home to a warm welcome

The third definition derives from this day’s parable.  The first meaning applies to the younger son, and the second definition applies to the father, a stand-in for God.

Tradition calls this day’s parable “the Prodigal Son.”  This is a misnomer.  It is really a parable about a loving father, as wasteful younger son who comes to his senses and repents, and a resentful older son who stays home dutifully.  The father loves his sons, both of whom disappoint him.  Yet the younger son repents.  And what about the older son?  His part of the story contains the climax of the parable.  He does not join in his father’s joy and extravagant grace.

Grace scandalizes us sometimes, especially if we are more like the older son than the younger one.  Grace means that someone does not receive what he or she deserves.  Yet none of us deserves grace, so who are we to criticize?  And can we not be merely decent human beings who rejoice in God’s extravagant, scandalous, even prodigal (according to definition #2) love?

Think of the reading from Micah.  To show mercy is God’s true delight.  And consult the psalm.  God knows that we are dust, is compassionate and gracious, and loves as a father (and mother, too) loves a child.  Previous readings this Lent have informed us that we should love God completely and be compassionate and merciful, as God is compassionate and merciful.  Let us connect the dots.  Let us love ourselves, one another, and God.  And if this causes scandal, so be it.


Written on February 24, 2010


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