Lent Day 26 – Everything I Have is Yours

by Bishop Robert Barron


The Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:1-32), which we hear today at Mass, tells us practically everything we need to know about our relationship to God, if we attend to the details.

We hear: “A man had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the estate that is coming to me.’” We are the children of God; we have been given our life, our being, everything by him; we exist through him every moment.

But then the wrong response: “Give me my share that is coming to me.” To live properly in God is to live in an attitude of receptivity and generosity, receiving a gift from God and being always ready to give it away.

Yet God respects our freedom and so “the father divided up the property.” This is a tragic moment. What is meant to be a flow of grace becomes divided, separated, and riven into yours and mine.

Where does the son go? He wanders with his fortune into the “far country.” In Greek the phrase is chora makra, meaning “the great wide-open emptiness”. There he quickly squanders his inheritance, and so it always goes. When we cling to the divine life as our own, we lose it. He was forced to hire himself out so as to become a feeder of pigs. In the chora makra, there are only relationships of economic calculation, each one striving to hang on to what is his. “No one made a move to give him anything.” And so it goes in the far country: it is the place of no giving.

Coming to his senses at last, he decides to break away and return to his father, saying, “Treat me like one of your hired hands.” He knows that even the slaves are in a life-giving relationship.

The father sees him from a long way off (he had obviously been looking for him) and then, throwing caution and respectability to the winds, he comes running out to meet him. The Bible is not the story of our quest for God, but of God’s passionate, relentless quest for us. The father then says, “Put a ring on his finger and shoes on his feet.” This is the ring of marriage, symbolizing the re-establishment of right relation between us and God.

Now the older son—though superficially so different from his brother—is actually in the same spiritual space, for he too sees himself in an economic relationship to his father. Like most upright, religiously respectable people, he is put off by this celebration for someone who most assuredly does not deserve it. Listen to his language: “For years I have slaved for you. I never disobeyed any of your orders, yet you never gave me so much as a kid goat to celebrate with my friends.”

The older son is therefore a slave, and one who carefully obeys—not one who has caught the spirit of his father. He feels that he has to earn or deserve his father’s love. He hates his brother and is resentful of his father’s generosity. “Then when this son of yours returns after having gone through your property with loose women, you kill the fatted calf for him.” When we fall out of love with God, we fall into hatred of one another.

The father patiently explains: “My son, you are with me always, and everything I have is yours.” This is the key to the entire parable and is true for both sons, though they don’t realize it.

Everything that God has is given to us. His whole being is “for-giving.”

   

Want more daily reflections? Be sure to sign up:

 


 
  • Anton D

    “The Bible is not the story of our quest for God, but of God’s passionate, relentless quest for us.
    The father then says, “Put a ring on his finger and shoes on his feet.”
    This is the ring of marriage, symbolizing the re-establishment of right relation between us and God.”

    • Mary

      The Old Testament is full of covenants God makes with mankind in His constant love for “us”. He never gave up but had to send Jesus finally because we kept breaking our covenant with Him! Thank you God for pursuing us! We are the prodigal son.

  • Elizabeth

    “The Hound of Heaven” is a 182-line poem written by English poet Francis Thompson (1859–1907).

    This well-loved Christian poem has been described as follows:

    “The name is strange. It startles one at first. It is so bold, so new, so fearless. It does not attract, rather the reverse. But when one reads the poem this strangeness disappears. The meaning is understood. As the hound follows the hare, never ceasing in its running, ever drawing nearer in the chase, with unhurrying and unperturbed pace, so does God follow the fleeing soul by His Divine grace. And though in sin or in human love, away from God it seeks to hide itself, Divine grace follows after, unwearyingly follows ever after, till the soul feels its pressure forcing it to turn to Him alone in that never ending pursuit.” J.F.X. O’Conor, S.J.[3]

  • ber

    Today’s passage if filled with hope and expectations the renegrade son feeling the rejection of a life that filled him with the lie that love was to be found in the promises of the world
    He looked for mercy and love where he experienced in in his family but the son always being faithfully had not learned the true meaning of love or experienced it in its truest form mercy
    The father had no wish to loose a son his love was and is the purest form no self interest he loved because the child was his the renegrade son on the other hand experienced a lesson that would never leave him and learned thankfulness and mercy
    I too have learned the lord lives me no matter what he’s interested in my future not my past and I have known true love that the world will never give I’m home with the father for which I’m always greatfull blessings on your day guys

  • Sarah George Mathew

    Thank you for this commentary, Bishop Barron. I never did see the attitude of the older son as one of a slave – one who just carefully obeys his father, that he has to earn his father’s love, and who has not caught the spirit of the father. How often we who call ourselves Christian do the same, and not live in gratitude for what God has given us, and not operate from the freedom of being children, and not slaves, of God.

    • Mary

      Me too

  • Dude_Abides

    “Everything that God has is given to us. His whole being is “for-giving.”” Wonderful play on the meaning of the base-word – forgive: to absolve or pardon.
    For me, always a good parable to reflect on. Being raised in the Church and then straying from it for many years, then recently returning, I had initially interpreted this parable as one of sin, contrition, redemption and forgiveness. Basically from the point-of-view of the younger “Prodigal” (recklessly wasteful) son and his father.
    Not until recently have I thought of the aspect of the older obedient son in this story. He seems to represent the law abiding meritorious aspects of the Pharisees and the scribes who earlier in the Gospel of Luke grumbled about Jesus, saying: “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” Luke 15:2
    Therefore I think it provides a warning to all of us who become active and participate in our Church to not be like the Pharisees and judge ones love of our
    Father based just on merit or the law (i.e. ‘what are we doing’ versus ‘what are those people not doing’).
    For I believe our Father’s graciousness and love is not dependent just on our performance and worldly deeds but more importantly on our proximity or closeness to him.

    • Elizabeth

      The reflection on the older son came about not too many years ago. I thank God our Catholic faith evolves and we keep on learning and growing as we become more aware through Church teaching evolving into today’s understanding of the Biblical messages.

      • Dude_Abides

        Yes amen on that Elizabeth. His Words spoken and written down two millennia are still being reflected upon. And in another millennia or two, it will still be the case. Pax tecum

    • April H

      I , too, Dude, reflected more on the son that had strayed. Funny how when I take a closer look at my life, my level of expectations of myself and others look more like that of the son who had always followed the rules – most likely contributing to my “straying” :). I am you, you are me, we are them, they are us. Thank God for Jesus! He *wants* to be with ALL of “us” ;). Always appreciate your posts. Peace be with you today and always. Kindest regards, April

      • Dude_Abides

        Thank you April for your gracious words and wishes. A coo coo cachoo to us; sorry I drifted off onto a old Beatles song lyric with your ” I am you, you are me… but I DO get it. We can be, ARE, play both sons/brothers, prodigal and obedient roles. Jesus’ parables as with his love for us endures, it is unwavering and eternal.
        Sic transit gloria mundi –Thus passes the glory of the world +-:-)

    • concerned citizen

      Yes, I agree Dude. In addition, we should also remember, that our holiness or whatever good we do, is due to the grace that God has sent to us and the mercy that He has shown us. It was because of His mercy, that St. Paul was converted. It was because of His mercy, that David repented. The saints know this and that is what keeps them humble and contrite. They never fail to see themselves as sinners. They truly believe that without the grace and mercy of God, they would have become the greatest sinners.

  • Dayna Ellis

    “The Prodigal Son,” a beautiful story of redemption and mercy. The youngest son’s begging of forgiveness and the father looking and running to greet his long lost son. Through the father’s actions he easily and quickly forgives before the unwise son even begins to beg. So our relationship with God, our Father, is exactly the same. The older son’s jealousy of his brother for being accepted back into his father’s fold is a common reaction among siblings and parents. We Christians, act this story out over and over again especially in judging others. God wants us all to love him above everything. Jesus said, “Love God with all your heart. Second, love your neighbor as you love yourself,” which includes your brother, sister, etc. If we remember Jesus’s Laws of Love, we will ultimately make good choices.

  • Patrick Cassidy

    This is one of my favorite parables. One of the more subtle sentences is, “while he (the younger son) was still far off”. I only just realized what this means. We are all sinners, but its when we take those first few steps towards our Father that he runs to us and sweeps us into his arms, even though we are all “still a far way off” from being disciples. The Father embraced His son who was probably dirty and smelly (he was working in a pig pen), yet the Father embraced him and got him cleaned up and dressed in the finest robes.

    That moment when you realize that God has swept you up is the greatest feeling ever. Nothing else can even come close to it.

  • Barb McSweeney

    Over and over – please, Father, give us the all-encompassing GIFT of AWARENESS of Your PRESENCE in our DAILYNESS…Show us, lead us to move our knowledge of You from mind to heart…

  • Joseph T. Garcia

    ” Chora Makra ” , meaning , “the great wide-open emptiness” … ” and so it goes in the far country ( inner self ) : it is the place ( self ) of no giving ” .

  • Mrsfitz

    I’m just wanted to say “Wow”. A really moving reflection. Thanks for your brilliance. Your ability to hold a mirror up to human nature and open a window into God’s love is extraordinary.

  • Murieta Marsha

    Henri Nouwen’s book : Return of The Prodigal Son-takes the reader through each character in the parable. The reader identifies w/ each–it is a marvelous spiritual experience .

    • Elizabeth

      Thanks for the name of Henri Nouwen’s book, look forward to reading it.

    • Murieta Marsha

      As they say– Henri Nouwen will hit you where you live. The book is one of the most profound I’ve read-aside from the Bible.

  • Richard Ferris

    “The father patiently explains: “My son, you are with me always, and everything I have is yours.” This is the key to the entire parable and is true for both sons, though they don’t realize it.” – just incredible. I so often identify with the younger son – but then think I live in the house still with the mindset of a servant….and not a son. It’s easy to see the Father’s love…but much harder to actually let it in, trust it, and believe I deserve it. Do I see myself truly as a son, or still as a ” servant in my Father’s house”.

  • concerned citizen

    Which is harder to do? To forgive or to ask for forgiveness. Forgiveness has two sides. On one side, we are taught to ask for forgiveness from those we have hurt. On the other side, we are taught to forgive those who have hurt us. One side requires humility and sorrow. The other side requires mercy and compassion. I feel that it is only when we have acquired the virtue of humility, can we also acquire the virtue of compassion.

    • ber

      Well put concerned and so right your reflection is spot on thanks for your input

    • kayeloney@cox.net

      In the Our Father we ask forgive us our Sin’s as we forgive those who have trans passed against us. (after I say that I always try to mental say to Jesus I forgive all and I ask forgive’s of all Soul’s) Everything is contained in the Our Father that is Jesus give us really only one Prayer the whole World is Praying this 1 Prayer, it is up to the Heavenly Father to decide when the completion has been obtained. Blessing to you.

      • concerned citizen

        I agree with you. I also advise people who were deeply hurt by other people, to add the name of the person/s in the Our Father. After praying, as we forgive those who have trespassed against us”.. I say add, “and especially (the name of the person), help me dear Father to forgive him or her”.. I base this on my own experience when at one time, I was a victim of a great injustice. Praying for the person especially including his name in the Lord’s Prayer has definitely helped me to forgive the person and forget the bitterness I once had.

  • concerned citizen

    In this Parable of the Prodigal Son, we learn that there is no sin so great that God cannot forgive. On the other hand, I believe that there is also no sin that is so small, that we need not ask for forgiveness. This is why the saints go to Confession regularly and frequently and make a daily examination of conscience and an act of contrition.

  • Anton D

    Link to Bishop Robert Barron’s sermon this Sunday. The Prodigal Son Returns.

    http://www.wordonfire.org/resources/homily/the-prodigal-son-returns/5091/

  • Kathiehc

    How I wish I could shake that Older Son attitude. Intellectually I understand & embrace Bishop Barron’s beautiful explanation, but I know, if I was in his shoes, I’d feel just as the Older Son feels!

    • Geraldine (Gerry) Novotny

      This reminds me of a funny Mother Angelica story… A woman was married for many, many years. She was a very good Catholic. Although she tried and tried to get her husband to at least be baptized or to go to church once in a while, she never succeeded. Well, her husband is now on his death bed so she calls her priest. Surprisingly her husband, now worried about his soul, wants to be received into the church. The priest baptizes him, hears his confession, gives him the last rites and the man dies. The priest joyfully tells the woman that her husband is going straight to heaven! She’s not happy… Shouldn’t he suffer a little bit. :-)

      • http://findmeinflorida.wordpresscom Tampa Lady

        He wasn’t baptized? Here I go with that marriage thing again. How’d they even get married in the first place? Suffer a little? Okay….
        I have issues about how these nagging women and waywardness in hubs. Are those guys the only ones that marry these naggy ladies? Don’t they marry Christians?
        I shake my head at the whole thing and throw my hands up.

  • Nancy Rynders

    “When we fall out of love with God, we fall into hatred of one another.” Enough said.

  • Anthony Siwczak

    For myself I find this reading exemplifies that fact that “GOD” is always looking for us and we just through original sin have been veiled from “HIS” closeness to us. Praise the LORD ; now and forever. AMEN!

  • Mike

    What a powerful parable and reflection! Neither brother was in right relationship to the Father.

    One wanted the Father’s treasure while living a dissolute life in a far country. This is like the “once saved always saved” Protestants.

    The other brother thought he deserved the Father’s treasure because of his works. This is like those who seek to earn salvation by following a set of requirements or laws. The Catholic Church doesn’t teach this, but there are Catholics who fall into this camp.

    What they both miss is that what we need to do is be in right relationship with God as part of his family. When the first son approaches the Father humbly he is welcomed back into the family.

    A lot of the on fire Catholics that I know are people who were in a far country, the chora makra, and came to God on their knees, not deserving anything but finding mercy and forgiveness.

  • Penelope

    I too at one time put myself in the place of the prodigal son, and then at another time in the place of the older son. These days, I hear more and more about the Mercy of the Father. And then this morning, the focus of the homily was again on the incredible love and mercy of the Father.
    Now it seems to me that the Father’s Mercy is the most important thing about this story, because it is the Father’s Mercy that will bring me home. It is He Who comes searching for me, He Who runs to take me up into His arms.
    “The father ran and put his arms around the younger son…”Luke 15:20b
    “The father of the the elder son came out and began to plead with him” Luke 15:28b
    The Father came out to bring both of his children in.
    Like in the poem of the Hound of Heaven, the Lord sure goes the extra mile for us. I’m thinking it’s good to trust him for our salvation and for the salvation of our loved ones.

    Soften our hearts Lord, soften our hearts.

    • concerned citizen

      I agree with you Penelope. We see the mercy of the father not only towards the younger son but towards the older son as well. He did not get angry at the older son for his wrong attitude. He also went out of his way to talk to the older son. God is merciful to both saints and sinners. Saints realize that they could have become the greatest sinners if God was not merciful to them or if they did not receive the grace of God. This keeps them humble and contrite. We too should remember that whatever good we do, we owe it to God’s mercy.

      • Penelope

        Amen, dear concerned citizen! Amen!
        I met a dear lady as I was walking out the door after Mass today. She said to me, “I’m such a sinner,” And she looked sad. “Me too” I told her. And I told her, “if I ever would say that I am not a sinner, then, I would be in the greatest trouble of all!”
        Like the song goes…the saints are just the sinners that fall down….and get up…
        Amen! Amen! Amen!

  • Vilma

    Beautiful interpretation! Thank you Bishop Barron. http://www.shepherdoffaith.com

  • kayeloney@cox.net

    I understand that change is needed among all Soul’s you have to understand that all Soul’s is your family and that you have to give prayer to all. How this is done is first you have to give your Human Will back to Jesus and ask the Blessed Virgin to enclose the Human Will in her Immaculate Heart. Giving you Jesus Divine Will to Pray in unity with Him for all Soul’s Past, Present and Future Soul’s. Now you have established the completion of the Our Father their Will be done on Earth as in Heaven. This is the Father Will, now it is up to you to Pray.

  • Linda Dokey

    Thank you Heavenly Father for All the Blessings You give to the Peoples. Amen

  • rtclovesmac

    I have often caught myself in the trap of thinking I had to earn Christ’s love with the question like is what I am doing enough to make please Him.
    When in truth, all I have to do is to praise him in thankfulness by living the love He has given to me by giving His love to others. Trusting even in the dark times that all is for the glory of God.

  • Wanda Gresko

    One of the best explanations of this story I’ve ever heard. Thanks.

  • Mary Jane Madeline

    Thank you Bishop Barron for your commentary of the Prodigal Son. In the past few years there is more attention on the attitude of the older brother.He expressed anger and resentment that he wasn’t treated to a feast with his friends. Good lesson among siblings – never compare what one or another has. It wasn’t meant for me if I don’t have it. Simple.

  • http://findmeinflorida.wordpresscom Tampa Lady

    I love this. “Yet God respects our freedom and so “the father divided up the property.” This is a tragic moment. What is meant to be a flow of grace becomes divided, separated, and riven into yours and mine.”
    That made me think.

    It also made me think about God’s mercy. He was looking for him. Why’d he give it all to him in the first place? That’s what I get .