Lenten Reflection by Sister Mary Jane

prodigal4th Sunday in Lent      Luke 15: 11-31

During the years when I taught second grade, I had the joy of teaching the Sacrament of Reconciliation. For many years I used a delightful version of the parable of the Prodigal Son as told by the animals who lived on the farm where the story takes place.  In this version each character in the scripture story confides in one of the animals.  The older son (Jason) complains to Mable the Cow about how unfairly he had been treated, since he is the one who has been faithful, staying at home and doing all the work. “And now that no good brother comes home and Father is so happy he’s back, he treats him as if he is a king after he wasted all father’s money and is expecting that I will take care of him.”  Jason wasn’t very gentle with Helda the Chicken when he met her in the barnyard.  He stepped on her tail and yelled at her that she was just like his brother—never did anything and lived like a king.  Of course Gladys the Duck witnessed this and decided to stay out of his way by floating on the pond and sun-bathing on the bank with her ducklings.  Jason told her he would wring their necks if she didn’t stay out of his way. She couldn’t figure out why Nick’s (the prodigal brother) coming home upset Jason so.

Horace the Horse said that the father confided in him about how happy he is to have Nick back home. He told Horace how heavy his heart was when Nick left home.  How worried he was when Nick didn’t write or try to contact him. How he was afraid he would never see Nick again. Father described how happy he was when he saw Nick coming down the road and ran to him, put a ring on his finger and decided to invite everyone for miles around to a great feast.

Nick talked to Cleopatra the Pig about his good times with his friends and how he spent all the money on parties and presents for them. When the money ran out, he realized how hungry he was and wanted to eat part of the slop he was supposed to feed to the hogs. He even started dreaming about eating one of the hogs! That was when he decided he couldn’t go on living that way and came back home a poor and hungry man.

Bartholomew the Dog had the inside scoop about the feast being prepared for Nick.    When the party was over, all the animals wanted to know what the cheering was about when the party started. Bartholomew wanted to talk about all the food but stopped long enough to say that Jason had just hugged Nick.All the animals were stunned! “Jason hugged Nick? Are you sure Jason wasn’t trying to strangle Nick? He was so mad about Nick coming back home, it’s hard to believe they hugged each other.”

Here is Bartholomew’s narration about what went on. “When the party started, Father got up and said, ‘This party is to welcome home my youngest son who has been away for so long.’  There was silence over the whole party and Jason just stood and stared at Nick. Finally, Nick stood up and said, ‘I have asked God’s forgiveness, but the time has come to ask my family and friends to forgive me. I know now, when my father gave me my share of the riches how very foolish I was. My brother stayed and worked on the farm. I went to the big city with my money to become a rich man, but I fell into wicked ways. When my money was gone, so were my new friends. They wouldn’t even buy me lunch. I wound up living in a pigsty. When I almost starved to death, I decided to come back and beg forgiveness and ask for a job to earn a living for myself. But in my shame, I could not face Jason, so with all of you as my witnesses, I ask forgiveness.’ That’s when Jason and Nick hugged each other, everyone cheered, the music started and everyone began to eat. Oh, did I tell you about the food?”

When Jesus told this parable he left it open ended. He didn’t say what either son did in the end. I’m sure he left it that way for his listeners and us to decide what each son should do. Therefore, letting us choose how to handle similar situations in our lives with the hope that we would do the right thing in order to reconcile. Do we choose to be like the older son and walk away with our hurt and never talk to our brother/sister again?  Do we acknowledge the wrong we have done and humble ourselves in order to ask for forgiveness? Jesus did not conclude with the ending in this version; he knew that not all conflicts end in reconciliation. Whoever wrote this version tried to show the children what true reconciliation looks like and how to go about living a life of reconciliation. Even though Jesus did not end this parable with reconciliation; in Matthew 5: 24, Jesus shows us how conflict should end when he admonishes us to “leave our gift at the altar and go first and be reconciled with our brother/sister.”

Sister Mary Jane Vigil, OSB

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