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03/06/16 Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Fr. Reggie

This parable is one of the best known stories in all of human literature.

But what does it really mean? We call it the parable of the prodigal son, but should we? Is it primarily about that younger son, who abandons his father and squanders his life in extreme self-indulgence and sensuality? Jesus told the parable to tax collectors and sinners, but also to Pharisees and Scribes. In fact, he told it in response to some of their questions. Now the Pharisees and Scribes were considered the experts in religion; the ones who avoided sin and followed the law perfectly. They were like the other brother in the parable, the older brother. So maybe we should call this the parable of the arrogant son instead of the parable of the prodigal son. The older brother was arrogant: his heart was like a rock, judging everyone and considering himself superior to everyone, just like the Pharisees.

So who is Jesus really speaking to, the prodigal sons, or the arrogant sons? Those of us who have a superiority complex and are harsh judges of our neighbors, or those of us who can't control our instincts and urges? There is a third option – after all, the real hero of the parable is not one of the sons, but the father. He is the one who rushed out to welcome the prodigal son, unconditionally. He is the one who humbled himself, coming out to reason gently with the angry older son. This parable is about the father. In this parable Jesus is giving us a portrait of God, who always takes the first step to bring us back into his friendship, no matter how far we may have strayed.

This is the parable of the merciful father, because in a fallen world, mercy is God's main characteristic.

Understanding God's view of mercy helps us understand why so-called "mercy-killing" is so wrong.

Mercy-killing is the name they used to use for Euthanasia and assisted suicide.


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