Open Arms, Open Heart, Open Mind

Scripture (Luke 15: 1-3, 11-32)

"A man had two sons, and the younger son said to his father,
'Father, give me the share of your estate that should come to me.'
So the father divided the property between them.
After a few days, the younger son collected all his belongings
and set off to a distant country
where he squandered his inheritance on a life of dissipation.
When he had freely spent everything,
a severe famine struck that country,
and he found himself in dire need.
So he hired himself out to one of the local citizens
who sent him to his farm to tend the swine.
And he longed to eat his fill of the pods on which the swine fed,
but nobody gave him any.
Coming to his senses he thought,
'How many of my father's hired workers
have more than enough food to eat,
but here am I, dying from hunger.
I shall get up and go to my father and I shall say to him,
"Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.
I no longer deserve to be called your son;
treat me as you would treat one of your hired workers."'
So he got up and went back to his father.
While he was still a long way off,
his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion.
He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him.
His son said to him,
'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you;
I no longer deserve to be called your son.'
But his father ordered his servants,
'Quickly, bring the finest robe and put it on him;
put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.
Take the fattened calf and slaughter it.
Then let us celebrate with a feast,
because this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again;
he was lost, and has been found.'
Then the celebration began.
Now the older son had been out in the field
and, on his way back, as he neared the house,
he heard the sound of music and dancing.
He called one of the servants and asked what this might mean.
The servant said to him,
'Your brother has returned
and your father has slaughtered the fattened calf
because he has him back safe and sound.'
He became angry,
and when he refused to enter the house,
his father came out and pleaded with him.
He said to his father in reply,
'Look, all these years I served you
and not once did I disobey your orders;
yet you never gave me even a young goat to feast on with my friends.
But when your son returns
who swallowed up your property with prostitutes,
for him you slaughter the fattened calf.'
He said to him,
'My son, you are here with me always;
everything I have is yours.
But now we must celebrate and rejoice,
because your brother was dead and has come to life again;
he was lost and has been found.'"

Reflection

When I read the Gospel of the “Prodigal Son” three words came to mind: forgiveness, humility and contentedness. We read about the father’s compassion and how he celebrates the return of his lost son. The father ordered his servants to bring his son the finest robe and to slaughter the fattened calf. But the behavior which strikes me the most is the fact the father ran to his son, embraced and kissed him before his son apologized or said a word. The father was overjoyed at just the sight of his lost son and had forgiven his son before his son had a chance to repent.  This reminds me of the saying, “if you take one step towards God he will take 100 steps toward you”. We do not need to have all the answers or an exact plan or even be perfect to have the Lord look upon us favorably. We merely have to move towards Him and He will do the rest of the work.

We are all guilty of attempting to do things without our parents’ help. Maybe we have done this as a teenager to our earthly parents; we most certainly have done this to our Heavenly Father. We get the notion we can do something on our own and ignore wisdom that was previously imparted upon us. And we fail. Sometimes we do not see or choose to ignore our error, and we fail again. Only when we humble ourselves enough to submit to the good judgement, care and love of God do we find the path around, through or over our failings. The son had a safety net all along. He chose to starve before coming to his senses and seeking his father’s help. We do not have to starve, He will supply.

The older son made the mistake of taking offense to the good treatment the father gave to his younger brother.  Often times as siblings may do, the older son compared his father’s love for the two sons. We make this mistake when we clearly see the blessings that belong to other people while at the same time overlooking the blessings we receive daily. We ponder having a nicer car, a larger house or bank account, but we sometimes forget to give thanks to having heat in the winter time, a full refrigerator and clean water. We have no need to look at others’ blessings to know we are content in our own.

Questions

  • How can I actively exhibit forgiveness, humility and contentment in my everyday life?
  • What daily actions do I take to walk towards God?
The fatted calf, the best Scotch, the hoedown could all have been his too, any time he asked for them except that he never thought to ask for them because he was too busy trying cheerlessly and religiously to earn them.
— Frederich Buechner
 
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These Lenten reflections are written by friends of 12plus1, Inc.  Discovery House a service-based gap year experience for participants ages 18-20 will begin August 2018.  Please share this information with an individuals who may want to participate or support this new ministry.

Action

Try identifying a blessing that you may have taken for granted and attempt to eliminate it from your life for a week. Ex: Instead of driving your car, take the bus everywhere for a week.

Prayer 

Lord, help me to remember to forgive others like you always remember to forgive me. Help me to carefully observe my surroundings so that I take no one or nothing for granted.

Author

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LeRoy is a native of Milwaukee who is now residing in North Carolina with his beautiful wife Carla. He has been an educator of young people for more than 12 years and currently works as a mentor for young men. He credits his mother and father for instilling in him his sense of faith and character.