Year C Sunday Gospel Reflections by John McKinnon

“…your brother was dead and now is alive once more; he was lost and has been found”

The context of today's passage is important, as it affects the way we hear the only-too-familiar story that has come to be called "The Parable of the Prodigal Son".

Jesus would no doubt have called the tax-collectors and sinners to a change of life-style, not by threats, but by giving them hope and the offer of fuller life and fulfilling relationships. Yet his openness to them was questioned by the good people of his society, who, like most Christians, too, were particular about whom they associated with because they did not wish to be drawn into moral laxity and sin.

The search for perfection, however, is risky. It can easily lead to judgmentalism of others, and unconscious resentment. People can feel unable in good conscience to act sinfully, even though they would at times like to do so. Without realising it, they resent those who seem "to get away with it".

This tendency is caught in the final segment of the parable, where the attention turns to the elder son. The judgmentalism is clear, but so, too, is the resentment at both the father [God?] and the sinner, and the sense of burden and of "missing out" that are reluctantly accepted as the price of acting morally.

His older son was out on the farm. As he got closer to the house, he could hear the music and dancing. He called one of the young slaves and asked him what it could all mean. Your brother has come home, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has got him back in good health.

Through his story, Jesus was inviting his grumbling Pharisee-listeners to see life differently, as constant movement from being dead to becoming increasingly alive - for sinners and also for themselves. That movement can be more easily said than done.

The story is so well known that there is no real need to hear it through once more. But it bears much reflective thought.

The modern listener might wonder where precisely the sinfulness of the younger son lay, and would possibly regard the father's behaviour as unusual but not impossible. To Jesus' listeners, given the period and the cultural attitudes, the son's behaviour would have been grossly insulting and extremely hurtful, while the response of the father would have been simply unthinkable. Jesus certainly set out to challenge his hearers.

Though the attention of readers is often directed to the "prodigal son", the story is better understood as a parable of the "prodigal father". In the father, Jesus paints a beautiful portrait of God – compassionate, impatient, exuberant and in love with life.

In fact, the younger son seems to be more concerned for his own welfare, despite his protestations of remorse.

It is the unexpected encounter with the love of the excited father that provided opportunity to look beyond self-interest to see and to accept the true extent of guilt. Forgiveness always precedes genuine sorrow [as distinct from remorse], and indeed, empowers it. Whether the younger son made that transition is not clear from the story – though it may perhaps be supposed: … we had to celebrate and to rejoice because this man, your brother, was dead and now is alive once more; he was lost and has been found.

# vimeo.com/56514426 Uploaded 143 Plays 0 Comments

Year C Sunday Gospel Reflections by John McKinnon

Patrick Lim Plus

John McKinnon is a priest of the diocese of Ballarat, Western Victoria, who studied for six years in Rome where he was ordained in 1957. On reaching the age of 75 in 2008, he retired from official parish work and has made himself available for other…


+ More

John McKinnon is a priest of the diocese of Ballarat, Western Victoria, who studied for six years in Rome where he was ordained in 1957. On reaching the age of 75 in 2008, he retired from official parish work and has made himself available for other ministries in the diocese. During his life as priest he has been parish priest, Diocesan chaplain of the Young Christian Workers Movement, lectured at the Institute of Catholic Education in Ballarat, and worked at a national level in the ongoing education of priests. He has given retreats to priests in most of the dioceses of Australia, as well as to religious and laity. Of recent years, he has been drawn on to give regular spiritual support to priests, religious and laity, particularly in the more isolated areas of his diocese.

John said: "My aim in these talks is to provide background for people who wish to reflect on the Sunday Gospels in the light of their own personal experience and to apply them to their lives. I shall examine each text, seeking to explain details that may not be familiar, and trying to determine the particular nuances of Jesus' message that the author of the gospel wished to emphasise. I shall conclude each talk with three questions that may help people's personal reflection and application of the Gospel's message."

Browse This Channel

Shout Box

Heads up: the shoutbox will be retiring soon. It’s tired of working, and can’t wait to relax. You can still send a message to the channel owner, though!

Channels are a simple, beautiful way to showcase and watch videos. Browse more Channels.