Let's Study the Parables - 5 - The Prodigal Son

[LEFT]I’m doing a study on these forums of the parables. I’d like to study each parable individually looking at:

a) What is the Message behind the Parable?
b) What doctrines do we see being taught in each Parable?
c) Can a Parable be used to defend against Non-Catholic doctrines?
d) What is the context of the Parable?

If you like this study, you’ll find others at:
**Let’s Study the Parables - 1 - The Good Samaritan
Let’s Study the Parables - 2 The Wicked Vinedressers
[LEFT] Let’s Study the Parables - 3 - Parable of the Talents
**[/LEFT]
Let’s Study the Parables - 4 - The Wheat and the Cockle

Or you could always find the Table of Contents on the Sticky on Sacred Scriptures:

With that in mind, I’d like to do a study on [/LEFT]
The Prodigal Son

Scripture: *Luke 15:11-32

  • ***11 And he said, "There was a man who had two sons; 12 and the younger of them said to his father, `Father, give me the share of property that falls to me.’ And he divided his living between them. 13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took his journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in loose living. 14 And when he had spent everything, a great famine arose in that country, and he began to be in want. 15 So he went and joined himself to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed swine. 16 And he would gladly have fed on the pods that the swine ate; and no one gave him anything.

***17 But when he came to himself he said, How many of my father's hired servants have bread enough and to spare, but I perish here with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me as one of your hired servants."' 20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was yet at a distance, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him,Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his servants, `Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet; 23 and bring the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and make merry; 24 for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to make merry.


***25 "Now his elder son was in the field; and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 And he called one of the servants and asked what this meant. 27 And he said to him, Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has received him safe and sound.' 28 But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, 29 but he answered his father,Lo, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command; yet you never gave me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your living with harlots, you killed for him the fatted calf!’


***31 And he said to him, `Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 It was fitting to make merry and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.***’"

First, let’s look at the context. Jesus is eating with sinners and the Pharisees are questioning this:
1 The tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to him, 2 but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying, "This man welcomes sinners and eats with them."With this in mind, Jesus addresses the parable. But only after discussing two short parable involving someone who rejoices greatly because they found
a) a pearl of great value, and
b) a sheep that was lost, and is now found.

Even though the audience themselves were obvious sinners, they still would have been shocked by the son’s behavior in the parable of the Prodigal Son.

***11 And he said, "There was a man who had two sons; 12 and the younger of them said to his father, `Father, give me the share of property that falls to me.’ And he divided his living between them. 13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took his journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in loose living.


When the boy demands his inheritance, he’s saying, "Dad, why don’t you just die to me and give me my money. The crowd would have been equally shocked that the dad gave in, for this was a grave insult indeed from the son. Then the son willingly leaves the country, again a shock to the average Judean.

Just when you thought the boy couldn’t sink any lower, Jesus tells of him living in sin and then resorting to feeding the swine, an unclean animal. The boy has basically turned his back on his family, his people, and his God.

Hi Notworthy:wave: ,

How are you? Are you running yet?:stuck_out_tongue: Im sure by now you are completely healed:D

I have one question for you about something you said in your OP.

What is the purpose of your thread? Is it to learn and teach the word of God together as christians so we can edify each other:thumbsup: or do you want to use this to try and prove NCC wrong?:frowning:

I guess I was curious as to what your motives are?:wink:

Thanks:D

Hey, AFH. I’m as healed as I’ll ever be, thank the Lord!!! My running days are over, but I can walk un-hindered for as long as I wish, even all day if neccessary.

Thanks for asking!

I have one question for you about something you said in your OP.

What is the purpose of your thread? Is it to learn and teach the word of God together as christians so we can edify each other:thumbsup: or do you want to use this to try and prove NCC wrong?:frowning:

I guess I was curious as to what your motives are?:wink:

Thanks:D

Motives?!? Moi!!! I’m wounded!!! :wink:

The thread, first and foremost is a study in the parables. If you look at the four previous ones, you should see that they aren’t apologetic… All our welcome. But in studying it, if there is a doctrine, either Catholic or non-Catholic that the parable brings up, then this is a good time to do so.

For instance, the parable of the Sheep and the Goats, to me, flies right in the face of Calvinism. This parable, the Prodigal Son, is a clear case against Once Saved, Always Saved. I’ll get into that in due time. But right now, let’s enjoy the study!!!

BTW, thanks for asking about my legs!

My favorite parable.

20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was yet at a distance, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.

It demonstrates how much God loves us even though we are “at a distance”, He has compassion and “runs and embraces” us.

His love does not diminish, even when we are in sin. A true indication of God’s mercy.

He does not abandon us, it is we who abandon Him.

Pope John Paul II commented on this parable in his Apostolic Exhortaion Reconciliation and Penance:

5. At the beginning of this apostolic exhortation there comes into my mind that extraordinary passage in St. Luke, the deeply religious as well as human substance of which I have already sought to illustrate in a previous document.(19) I refer to the parable of the prodigal son.(20)

**From the Brother Who Was Lost… **

“There was a man who had two sons; the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that falls to me,’ " says Jesus as he begins the dramatic story of that young man: the adventurous departure from his father’s house, the squandering of all his property in a loose and empty life, the dark days of exile and hunger, but even more of lost dignity, humiliation and shame and then nostalgia for his own home, the courage to go back, the father’s welcome. The father had certainly not forgotten his son, indeed he had kept unchanged his affection and esteem for him. So he had always waited for him, and now he embraces him and he gives orders for a great feast to celebrate the return of him who” was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found."

This prodigal son is man every human being: bewitched by the temptation to separate himself from his Father in order to lead his own independent existence; disappointed by the emptiness of the mirage which had fascinated him; alone, dishonored, exploited when he tries to build a world all for himself sorely tried, even in the depths of his own misery, by the desire to return to communion with his Father. Like the father in the parable, God looks out for the return of his child, embraces him when he arrives and orders the banquet of the new meeting with which the reconciliation is celebrated.

The most striking element of the parable is the father’s festive and loving welcome of the returning son: It is a sign of the mercy of God, who is always willing to forgive. Let us say at once: Reconciliation is principally a gift of the heavenly Father.

… To the Brother Who Stayed at Home

6. But the parable also brings into the picture the elder brother, who refuses to take his place at the banquet. He rebukes his younger brother for his dissolute wanderings, and he rebukes his father for the welcome given to the prodigal son while he himself, a temperate and hard-working person, faithful to father and home, has never been allowed-he says to have a celebration with his friends. This is a sign that he does not understand the father’s goodness. To the extent that this brother, too sure of himself and his own good qualities, jealous and haughty, full of bitterness and anger, is not converted and is not reconciled with his father and brother, the banquet is not yet fully the celebration of a reunion and rediscovery.

Man every human being-is also this elder brother. Selfishness makes him jealous, hardens his heart, blinds him and shuts him off from other people and from God. The loving kindness and mercy of the father irritate and enrage him; for him the happiness of the brother who has been found again has a bitter taste.(21) From this point of view he too needs to be converted in order to be reconciled.

The parable of the prodigal son is above all the story of the inexpressible love of a Father-God-who offers to his son when he comes back to him the gift of full reconciliation. But when the parable evokes, in the figure of the elder son, the selfishness which divides the brothers, it also becomes the story of the human family: It describes our situation and shows the path to be followed. The prodigal son, in his anxiety for conversion, to return to the arms of his father and to be forgiven, represents those who are aware of the existence in their inmost hearts of a longing for reconciliation at all levels and without reserve, and who realize with an inner certainty that this reconciliation is possible only if it derives from a first and fundamental reconciliation-the one which brings a person back from distant separation to filial friendship with God, whose infinite mercy is clearly known. But if the parable is read from the point of view of the other son, it portrays the situation of the human family, divided by forms of selfishness. It throws light on the difficulty involved in satisfying the desire and longing for one reconciled and united family. It therefore reminds us of the need for a profound transformation of hearts through the rediscovery of the Father’s mercy and through victory over misunderstanding and over hostility among brothers and sisters.

In the light of this inexhaustible parable of the mercy that wipes out sin, the church takes up the appeal that the parable contains and grasps her mission of working, in imitation of the Lord, for the conversion of hearts and for the reconciliation of people with God and with one another-these being two realities that are intimately connected.

It’s interesting to not where the parable ends. We don’t find out what the elder brother decides to do. Does he go inside and celebrate, or does he stay outside and continue being angry?

As JPII says in the quote above, we are all both the Prodigal Son and the elder brother. We all go astray at some time or another and need to come home, but at other times, we are like the elder brother. And, of course, we need to rejoice as God rejoices when our brothers and sisters turn back to Him, rather than feeling jeaolous that they got to do all this bad stuff and, because of their repentance, end up in God’s grace again.

Thank you for posting Pope John Paul’s exhoration. It was beautiful and full of wisdom.

I especially love the prodical son’s confession. (Personally I hate going to confession, but do it anyway) I feel that he was walking all the way home thinking about what he was going to say, feeling, scared, dismayed, SCARED. (projecting my own feelings as when I walk towards the confessional). He had rehearsed his confession over and over again, to get it right, to let his Father know that he was really sorry for what he did. When he sees the father and is before him, he starts to confesses and the father rejoices. The son did confess.

The father tells the elder son to rejoice because his brother was dead, but is now alive, was lost and is found. The elders son is hurt because he never had a party like that, but he was always faithful. The Father reassures him " All that is mine is yours." I think the son went in to celebrate his brothers return.

I get really upset when a Catholic leave the faith to join one of these little garage churches. Running into them on the street they are all so, “I found Jesus.” I always think, “Jesus was never lost, you were.” (just think it) I get mad and think whatever, you could have found him in your Catholic faith, but you left. It was too hard to do things the right way… then I remember…“All that is mine is yours.” …
Christian short cuts, always in the lost and found box…

rambling … please … excuse… sigh…

Hey, AFH. I’m as healed as I’ll ever be, thank the Lord!!! My running days are over, but I can walk un-hindered for as long as I wish, even all day if neccessary.

LOL Im glad you can walk all day:thumbsup:

Motives?!? Moi!!! I’m wounded!!! :wink:

Im sorry you know it is hard to tell on forums:p Just protecting myself because I really dont like and am not interested in apologetics. I just like studying God’s Word.:smiley:

The thread, first and foremost is a study in the parables. If you look at the four previous ones, you should see that they aren’t apologetic… All our welcome. But in studying it, if there is a doctrine, either Catholic or non-Catholic that the parable brings up, then this is a good time to do so.

For instance, the parable of the Sheep and the Goats, to me, flies right in the face of Calvinism. This parable, the Prodigal Son, is a clear case against Once Saved, Always Saved. I’ll get into that in due time. But right now, let’s enjoy the study!!!

Thanks

BTW, thanks for asking about my legs!

Im sorry it wasnt sooner.:o I took some time off of the forums and am ultimately trying to leave altogether–eventually.:wink:

I think the elder son represents the Pharisees (first and foremost), although it certainly portrays anyone who can look down their noses at someone “less holy and righteous” than they are.

Remember, the parable opens up with the Pharisees complaining about the company Jesus keeps. The Pharisees think similar to the older son. They do things right. They follow all the rules.

Now, here’s Jesus, leaving the father’s invitation to the older son hanging for the Pharisees to accept or reject. Of course, Jesus knows that they’ll reject Him, but the offer is there, irregardless!!!

Here’s an analysis of mine (from a year-old thread on what it means to have eternal life):Eternal life is our inheritence from God our Father, if we are truly His children by being truly brothers and sisters of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. An inheritence is not “earned” or “merited” except through sonship; but to denounce sonship is to denounce the inheritence. Does this make sense to you?

Let me put it to you the way Jesus did, in the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32). The rash youth decides he wants to go his own way, and his father accepts his son’s decision and gives the boy his share of the property at that time. The son squanders away his property and wealth and eventually realizes he must return to his father, if only so that he can survive (cf. 15:17)! He decides he will say, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me as one of your hired servants." (15:18-19). Notice the son doesn’t even ask to be forgiven – just that he be treated as a servant. He does not consider himself worthy of an inheritence, just a laborer’s wage!

Does he get to say it all? No, his father cuts him off after "I am no longer worthy to be called your son" (cf. 15:21-22). What the son has just said is an admission of guilt (“I have sinned”), and an act of contrition and humility (“I am not worthy”). The boy’s father – who has already embraced and kissed him before the boy even spoke – knows the penitence of the boy and celebrates his return. His return from what? The father says "my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found" (15:24). Was the lost son, the dead son going to receive an inheritence if he remained dead and lost to his father? All the hoping in the world, on the father’s part, would not have brought his son back if the son had not actually returned.

And what does the son receive upon his return? Is it something the father would have given to a hired servant? No, the son receives a fine robe, a ring, shoes for his feet, a fatted calf, and a feast and celebration (cf. 15:22-23). This is part of the inheritence, part of the joys of sonship. Truly he did not “merit” or “earn” such gifts – this is attested to by the faithful son who feels cheated, because he did not receive such things. The father tells the faithful son "all that is mine is yours" (15:31), and so it is revealed that the gifts of the father are bestowed on his children as he wishes and not by any merit of their own.

What the son took with him when he left was not his proper inheritence. He returned to his inheritence only when he returned to the father. His real inheritence never disappeared, he was only disqualified from it.
Then there’s a reflection I wrote for the readings of the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time from year B:
The historical context of [Mark 9:38-48] is also relevant. In the early church, there was sometimes bitter enmity between Jewish Christians (“natural”) and Gentile Christians (“adopted”). This message by Jesus was important in denouncing the rivalry between those who were Christian because they were Jews who believed Jesus was Christ, and those who were Christian because they were converted. This message is presented multiple times in Scripture. In the book of Jonah, God rebukes Jonah for his fierce nationalism in wishing God had not saved Ninevah but rather destroyed it, as God had told Jonah to prophesy. The parable of the workers in the vineyard who receive the same wages, even though some worked all day and others only started work in the afternoon (Matthew 20:1-16, specifically v12). The parable of the prodigal son, in which the elder son is angry at the father for celebrating the return of the younger son (Luke 15:11-32, specifically vv28-30). There is no room for jealousy in the kingdom of God. The “natural” Christians are not any “better” than the “adopted” Christians.
I’ll share my personal interpretation on the parable a little later when I’ve gathered my thoughts.

My favorite verse is v20: “And he arose and came to his father. But while he was yet at a distance, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.”

Japhy!!! Great post! Very insightful!

And notice, nobody “snatched” the son out of his father’s hand. The son simply left on his own will.

Everytime I hear this parable I always think of the sacrament of confession. When I have to go to confession I always feel nervous and scared and keep thinking of what I am going to say.Much like how I believe the prodigal son was walking home to the father’s house. When I hear the words of abosulation I have a an even greater apperication for this parable and God’s Divine Mercy.

:amen:

Just like “natural” catholics and “converted” catholics"…? Hope you all apply this as well. How about catholics and protestants - and those who do not have the “fullness of the faith” - Jesus and his church welcome them to the Kingdom of God as well.

Well, of course He does. I don’t think anyone claims that He doesn’t.

Regarding “natural” and “converted” Catholics… I’m reminded of people who become millionaires through the fruit of their efforts. Those who initially make the money, appreciate the value of the dollar and tend to spend it wisely. But their children, who only see the fruits of their parents labor and not the efforts, are often wasteful and unappreciative of their position.

Converted Catholics are often like the self-made millionaires. They’ve had to sacrifice much to get their and often have to suffer the ridicule of their family and friends who feel belittled by the conversion.

Natural Catholics are often like the children of the millionaires, who have no idea of the gift of the kingdom that they have inherited.

Of course there are exceptions, but the parallels (in my opinion) are striking.

Some Early Fathers see the elder son as the Jews and the younger as the Gentiles. the problem is not this, but that they see the return of the prodigal son as the immediate entrance of the Gentiles into the NT covenant.

This does not make sense.

Why?

because one son is older than the other, which implies what? That one is BORN before the other. Why were the Jews BORN before the Gentiles? Well, if their mere existence means being born, then it doesn’t make sense. For consummate with the Covenant of Abraham, immediately, there are the Jews and the Gentiles. For with Abraham, the Jews are, and consummate, all others are Gentiles. In which case they would be born at the same time.

But family means covenant, hence being born doesn’t mean they exist, but that they are in covenant. Therefore, with the COVENANT with Abraham, the Jews are born. Only later do the Gentiles enter covenant with God, through Christ.

Hence, the beginning of the Gentiles becoming Christians during the times of the Early Fathers, can only mean the BIRTH of the Gentiles as a son of the father, for prior to acceptance of the Gospel, the Gentiles are no son of the Father!

For if birth means anything other than covenant, the analogy of one son being older is nullified.

Therefore, with Christ’s first coming, the Gentiles are only born, not returning to the Father.

Therefore, the son must grow up and then tell the father to take a hike. That must therefore be an APOSTASY of the Gentiles, not their initial entrance into covenant.

Therefore, the departure of the younger son is the first apostasy of the Gentiles from Christianity.

For the last forty years, the son has squandered his inheritance on loose women and gambling. Which is to say, the West has tasted the full fruits of this creation both immodestly and immoderately, through the modern materialistic comforts and wonders.

but alas, the famine is beginning. And the younger son, when things are finally bad enough, shall say, how did I get into this mess? Here I am feeding swine and starving. Therefore, the younger son repents and is restored.

And what will the elder son do?

Desmond Birch indicates that MANY Jews will convert after the Minor Chastisement, but that it shall not be the fullness. That must wait until the final apostasy of Antichrist.

Why?

Well, look at the prodigal son, and recall the stubbornness of the human nature in St. Thomas the doubter. Yeah, St. Thomas said he wouldn’t believe until he had put his fingers into every last wound of Christ.

So also, it is with the Jews.

For shall not the Catholic Church, after the Gentile world almost comes to an end in the metaphorical exile that shall be the coming minor chastisement, say to the Jews, SEE, you did the same thing: prior to the exile, you became unfaithful to the Old Covenant and God chastised you, and you were restored. Shall you not then ponder that we, the Gentiles, must tend toward the same fall, seeing as we possess the same human nature that you do, the same tendencies both to falling down and being redeemed.

But what is the response of the elder son? Is it not the stubborness of St. Thomas? Is it not the fact that ONLY when the Jews have placed their fingers into EVERY wound of Christ shall they believe, so that they shall respond, “We admit that the CC was freed from oppression of Rome, as we were Egypt, and that the Gentiles fell from grace relative to the Catholic faith, and have been chastised and restored, even as we were relative to the OT covenant and Holy Land. We admit. But we SHALL NOT beleive until we have seen everything. So then, only when a final falling away comes in which a man of sin like Antiochus arises and persecutes the Gentile church, even as we were persecuted just prior to Christ, shall we accept the Gospel.”

Hence, the complaint of the elder son is not entirely legitimate. For the Father could just as soon tell the elder son, “were you any different? Did you not disown me in thy walk with me, and that I had mercy on you?”

Therefore, the elder son’s claim of absolute faithfulness is not entirely accurate, for he also had disowned the father and been restored, before the younger son had ever been born. It is rather the elder son’s FAILURE to recognize that the elder son is no BETTER than the younger son,…

…that is, that ANY son in a covenant must necessarily walk the path that is the Catholic way of the saint, the three stages: darkness/light, darkness/light, darkness/light, and that therefore, the intermediate falls of the respective Jews and Gentiles, relative the covenants, are PREDETERMINED according to the fallen nature. that is, that ANY People that traverse a walk through a primary revelatory and redemptive covenant, must, of INTRINSIC necessity, walk the path of the Catholic saint, the path that is in fact just a MICROCOSMIC example, of the same large stages that a People journey, relative to a covenant…

… and that, therefore, the intermediate fall of the Gentiles relative to the NT cov, is the inevitable fall that comes as a result of the spiritual process of walking in the way of God, so that the Jewish intermediate is no different. For there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free. The same human nature exists in all of us.

Therefore, the stages the Jews pass through, so do the Gentiles. only difference is, the jews pass relative to the PREFIGURING covenant, the Gentiles. to the FULFILLING Covenant.

The Jews simply fail to accept the Fulfillment in its initial inception, because of the stubborness of the fallen nature, of the tendency to take things as an end unto themselves, and fail to realize that they only POINTED to what would be, and not that they themselves are the final end.

But so then, what will ultimately enable the eyes of the Jews to be opened, is to see the intrinsic law of the Gospel: that is it is the spiritual that is the root, so that the history of the Gentiles in the age of the Church, when it reaches maturity in times of Antichrist, when the Jews see the ultimate deja vu, they are able to exclaim, with St. Thomas, “My Lord and my God!”

In the meantime, we anticipate with Birch’s mystics that even after the imminent dress rehearsal for the end of the world, when the Gentiles exercise the apocalyptic consequences of their errors and sins, and somehow are miraculously restored to faith, and come back the Catholicism, from the greatest celebration within human history shall occur, the great Millennium feast, the elder son will stand outside bitter and say, “it is not fair. For we have faithful to God from the beginning. And this younger son goes out whoring away your inheritance, and you slaughter the calf and throw a great party.”

But notice the mercy of God, which shews forth that even in this hardening of heart, God does NOT condemn the Jews, but pleads in love and compassion: “My son, everything I have is yours!”


[in the end, the younger son shall walk out on the father forever, and indeed the inheritance shall pass, essentially, sparing a remnant of the younger son, to the elder son, that is, in the times of the great apostasy, the near whole of the Jews shall accept Christ, they alone shall be the only nation that as a near whole, shall embrace the Christ when He comes on the clouds.]

“But thy brother that was lost, is found, he was dead, and is alive. Therefore we had to celebrate.”

Therefore, the Father shall still have patience with the elder son, he shall NOT condemn our elder brothers who are truly special in the eyes of God, and grant them a final degree of lack of culpability in failure to recognize the Messiah, for, as it stand, they will not have seen everything.

And is this not the glory of God, that even though the dragon has the final say with the majority of the nations in the time of the end, still God can PREDESTINE a greater good, even from the greatest fall that shall ever be in this world, in that, as they that had fully tasted the fruits of everything God can give, cast it aside irrevocably and unforgivably in supreme insult, STILL, God is able to open the eyes of they who could not see, until the wild branches are cut off.

So then, we see how the apostle exclaims, "For if their [the Jews’] rejection is the salvation of the Gentiles, what shall their acceptance mean, except, resurrection from the dead! "

Thanks. I am in RCIA and looking forward to Easter. I may agree on this. Some of the most knowledgeable folks I have met in their doctrine are the fellow protestant convertees in my class. They and I have a real hunger for what is "really " catholic. The catechism is deep and moving and very spiritual.

I have done research on the Lutherans, Methodists, Anglicans, etc and all of their differences and similarities betwen these and the Catholic faith.

Better for all the faiths to read up on each of the others. I have had alot of misconceptions about the catholic faith before moving on this. I also see some “innocent ignorance” towards protestantism as well.

God Bless you and thanks for that response.

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