By Ken Asel
A Reading from the Gospel of Luke 15:1-2, 11-32
1 Now all the tax-collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
11 Then Jesus said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them. 13 A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and travelled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. 14 When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. 16 He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. 17 But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! 18 I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; 19I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.”’ 20 So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. 21 Then 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 slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe — the best one — and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; 24for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.
25 “Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. 27 He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.’ 28 Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’ 31 Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’”
My father died in the early morning on Christmas Eve many years ago. He was a great, caring father, but incredibly busy making a living for my mother and sisters and me. We never had much time for each other. Dad was successful and respected in the community. I went to prep school, university, seminary, and several other graduate schools. Periodically, Dad would ask, “Why are you so busy? Why are you so sad? There’s plenty of time to enjoy your life.” Dad was proud of me, and I of him, yet we could never find time for each other, even when we tried.
This parable is no stranger to us. While many think of it as one of avarice, I remember a young man who thought he knew everything and was certain to find his own path, and how I impoverished myself along the way. But the father was never neglectful. “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; bring the spotted calf and kill it, and let us eat and make merry … your brother was dead and is alive, he was lost and is found.”
For many of us, this compassion has been shown to us, even in a limited way, in our parents. Cherish them. Imitate their virtues. I have missed my father every day. And I give thanks for God’s bestowing upon me an opportunity to know an image of his own love and patience in my earthly father. We can give our children our best. But we will still make mistakes. As children, we will make mistakes, too. But the mercy of God is generous, beyond measure.
(The Reverend) J. Kenneth Asel, D.Min. is a retired priest from the Diocese of Wyoming. Devvie & he have been married 30 years and reside in the Texas Hill Country.
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