Prodigal Son: context

prodigal-sonLuke 15 is one of the most unique chapters in the Gospels in that it consists of three memorable parables: the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, and the Prodigal Son. Many commentators locate these three parables (Luke 15) within a larger section of Luke that asks the question “who will participate in the reign of God?” (13:10-17:10). The section includes the foundational formation of the disciples – but often via the encounter with the Pharisees in which the assumptions of right relationship with God are put to the question. The Pharisees and others in the Jewish religious leadership assume folks such as tax collectors and sinners are outside the “faithful remnant” that awaits the return of the Messiah. At issue is the question of fellowship in the community of God’s people. Each encounter in this larger section seems to be an opportunity to form the disciples (and anyone who would listen) in the understanding of the reign of God. Continue reading

Prodigal, dishonest, and desperately clutching

In Jesus’ time, large agricultural operations such as the one described in our gospel parable were rarely run by the owner or the family, such things were left to the steward to oversee. The steward had the full faith and backing of the owner to operate the business. The steward would sell the oil and wheat production for cash, trade, or  in exchange for promissory notes. The bartering that preceded the execution of the promissory note was classic commodity bargaining:  I will give you so many measure of oil now, and at this future date you will repay with a higher measure of oil.  There were two thing buried in the difference between the higher amount and the original amount: profit for the owner and commission for the steward. That was the way things worked. Continue reading

What person having…..parables of the lost and found

Rembrandt, The Return of the Prodigal Son, 166...

Context.  Many commentators locate these three parables (Luke 15) within a larger section of Luke that asks the question “who will participate in the reign of God?” (13:10-17:10). The section includes the foundational formation of the disciples – but often via the encounter with the Pharisees in which the assumptions of right relationship with God are put to the question.  At issue is the question of fellowship in the community of God’s people. The setting for teaching about this fellowship is so often the meal setting where questions of boundaries and community play out in terms of admission, honor, and hospitality.  So often in this section the characters with the pericopes and parables are those who should attract respect and honor according to the conventional wisdom, yet within the parables of casualties of a reversal of values and misfortunes: “For behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last” (13:30).  The gospel text for his week immediately follows the unit of saying on the reversals in the Reign of God (13:10-14:35).  Joel Green outlines the reversal sayings as follows: Continue reading

Rejoicing with the Angels in Heaven

This Sunday is Laetare Sunday, so called because of the opening words to the antiphon for the Mass: Laetare Jerusalem….Rejoice, O Jerusalem…

All of our readings reflect and point to the celebration theme of joy here at the midpoint of our Lenten journey. When the Israelites reach the promised land the Lord announced that their guilt had been lifted, and so the people celebrate. They had become new people in a new land – just as St. Paul reminds us in his 2nd Letter to the Corinthians: “Whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come.” But the gospel is the real celebration in the wonderful telling of the parable of the Prodigal Son. There are a myriad of things that could be said about this parable, but let me suggest one for your consideration this Sunday. Continue reading