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Saint Bride's RC Church, 21 Greenlees Road, Cambuslang, Glasgow G72 8JB

Recent Homilies

  • 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

    You will know that we hear a lot about the Pharisees in the Gospel. They are often pictured as unbending, rigid and judgemental people, they roam the streets catching people out and publicly correctin...
  • 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

    There is such a thing as an honest answer and there is such a thing as a dishonest answer. An honest answer is an answer that is clear, truthful and straightforward and has nothing to hide. A dishones...
  • 28th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A

    I suspect when you come to mass you don’t want to hear about blood and guts, instead you come to hear something uplifting, you hope to go away feeling a bit better. But blood and guts is exactly what...

It’s strange that on mother’s day that we should be listening to a parable about a father and his sons. I hope that fact doesn’t seem to jar with those who are mothers. The bible can sound to our ears a bit too masculine, it comes from that ancient middle eastern context in which there was a patriarchal, masculine structure. We hear about Kings, armies, wars, fathers, sons, apostles who were all men and so on and too little about women.

 

This having been said that story of the Prodigal Son remains one of the most beautiful and challenging parables that Jesus teaches. It has a situation that everyone can understand, a son that lets his father down, a father that forgives him and a brother who is angry and resentful. It has a human dilemma that we have all wrestled with, to forgive or not forgive, being forced to the limits of what is forgivable. It has colour and detail in the telling, it tells us people’s inner thoughts, it tells us of highs and lows.

 

To understand the parable better I think you have to keep your eye on the ball: namely,  something that doesn’t even happen in the story, but something which precedes it, the reason that the story is told.  Jesus is at table with the lower class, the pharisees and scribes object to this, they refuse to come into the feast, refuse to come into the house, refuse to sit down, they stay out in the cold and dark. Jesus then tells this story directed to them.

 

When they hear the story, those who were listening, they would surely have gasped. A son had no right to ask for his inheritance before a father had died. Such a request would have seemed like wishing him dead to get his money, it would have been a huge insult. As the younger son by law he would have got 1/3 while the older son would have got 2/3. It would have surprised the crowd that the Father gives him the money not only is it an insult that he shouldn’t have to bear but it would have endangered their whole enterprise and wealth.

 

The next thing that would have shocked them in the story is what he does with the money. He goes to a far country,  that phrase doesn’t just mean somewhere far away but it meant a land in which he rejected family ties, traditions, bonds that exist - to go to a foreign land and live among foreign people. 

 

Instead of using the money wisely he squanders it – a fool and his money are soon parted. With money he has plenty of friends without money he is alone. With money he has clothes wthout money he has rags. With money he can do what he wants without money he is at the beck and call of others

 

The irony of his situation wouldn’t have been lost on the listeners. He was a landowners son and now he became a landowners servant. He was used to eating well and now he is hungry. And for traditional Jews he had the worst job looking after pigs . These pigs are fed with things people thrown away, as if to emphasise his dire situation no one offers him anything not even the food thrown away and offered to the pigs. They would have concluded he got his just deserts for committing such a terrible act. As we heard last Sunday at Mass they believed bad things happened to bad people, the 18 people whom the twer fell ion, those who were run through by Pilate and now this wicked boy who has let everyone down proves the point.

 

But the tone of the story changes. It suddenly says he came to his senses. This is how his train of thoughts runs: he realised how his father’s servants were treated.  His confession appears to us genuine, he will say has offended God by his actions, he no longer deserves to be called a son, he will ask him to take him back as a servant. He doesn’t plan to say he has learned his lesson or wasn’t he foolish  - he realises he can only rely on the graciousness of his father and he no longer deserves a place where he once belonged. And so he walks the long road home

 

Fast forward to the elder brother. He finds himself on the same road returning from working all day. And as he nears the village he receives word that his brother has returned and that a celebration has been called for. At such a celebration his place would have been with the father as the eldest son, greeting and welcoming the guests. But like the Pharisees at the beginning of the story he refuses to go in, he stays outside.  Bitter darkness is in his thoughts, malice consumes him. He can only think of the misery that his brother has caused and just like the Pharisees think the tax collectors and prostitutes are to be shunned so does he think the same of his brother. 

 

The story of the prodigal son is about the lost son but really it is about 2 lost sons. The younger son has strayed but doubt now is cast on the kind of love that the elder son has. It’s a kind of dutiful kind of love for his father, he sticks around and does what is expected of him. Jesus spots a parallel between the elder son and the Pharisees, its all duty, fulfilling laws but is empty within, it never grasps the heart of the mercy and compassion and the love of God. Like the Pharisees the elder son keeps to the law and everything expected of him but the end has no love for his father, no love for his fallen brother. 

 

The story ends, it’s a cliff hanger: will he go into the feast? Will he accept the father’s love? Will he listen to his entreaty? Will he sit down like a son with his father? Will the Pharisees come to the feast? Will they accept Jesus invitation? The parable leaves us guessing.

 

Then finally there is the father. He does not act in the way he would have been expected to act. He shouldn’t have given the land but does. He shouldn’t be waiting on the road but does. People should come to him, he shouldn’t go to them in the patriarchal structure of family life. Yet in the story he does the opposite: he goes to the younger son and comes out to speak to the elder son. The story says more: when he sees the son he runs to greet his young son, he does not wait for him to come to him. With the elder son he comes out to appeal to his petulant elder son although it would not have been the elder son that was expected to make this step of reconciliation. He does everything in the story he is not expected to do. He offers his love to both the law breaker and the law keeper. Note how he deals with both he embraces the young son, desn’t reprimand him, gives him clothes and shoes and re-instates him in his home. He doesn’t rebuke the elder son but calls him dear child and appeals to him to see sense. 

 

The parable starts with pharisees who won’t come into the banquet. They are out in the cold, in the darkness and are obstinate. The elder son likewise will not come into the feast, he too is out in the cold. Will the son come in? Will the Pharisees accept his invitation? Will we accept the invitation to the banquet or will we stay out in the cold and dark. Will he accepts the Father’s invitation to be merciful and love, will the Pharisees, will we?

 

 

Prayers of Intercession 4 Lent C

 

Priest

 

In this Holy Year of Mercy, God invites us to come in from the darkness and cold into the warmth and light of his mercy and to love one another

 

Intercessor

 

That the Church may proclaim the joy of the Gospel in today’s world and make known God’s love to all people.

 

Lord hear us

 

For all who are mothers, that they may continue to know the joy that their children brings to their hearts and that they may be blessed and cherished by the children they have brought into the world.

 

Lord hear us

 

For  peace in our world, especially in troubled places like Syria – that all people caught up in war may at last  know safety and genuine peace.

 

Lord hear us

 

For all who suffer through the uncertainties of a lack of security in their work – that God may give all the strength to meet the challenges of our times.

 

Lord hear us

 

For children making their First Confession, that they may know the joy of the prodigal son every time they turn towards God in their life.

 

Lord hear us

 

For all who are sick and in need God’s grace to bear the physical and mental difficulties that come with their illness.

 

Lord hear us

 

For all who have lost a relative in death and find it a heavy burden – for consolation and strength in dark days.

 

Lord hear us

 

For those who are seeking to serve the Lord by dedicating their life to him – for a desire to follow the call to where it leads them.

 

Lord hear us

 

For all who have died, especially Alice Williamson and all that we are asked to remember.

 

Lord hear us

 

Priest

 

Heavenly Father, be near us as we travel through life. Give us the strength and the ability to love you and serve you with all our hearts especially in this Holy Year of Grace and Mercy.