“Jesus continued: ‘There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.
Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ So he got up and went to his father.
But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’
‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”
Again, as with the fig tree, Jesus presents a parable where we can see a picture of waiting. This story is a bit different than the responses of the shepherd who lost a sheep and the woman searching for her coin.
What is the same in each of these parables, however, is the celebration when what was lost is found. Interestingly, Jesus shows us in this story that there is one person who is NOT celebrating that the lost was found...the jealous older brother. The father has a little chat with the older brother to remind him that it’s not about a competition or comparison of who is better or the most well-behaved. It’s pretty simple: when something that was lost is found, we celebrate.
Matthew 18:1-3 helps us interpret what Jesus was trying to teach us: “At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.’” (NIV)
Parent ask a child: When have you had to have grownup faith in God?
Child ask a parent: When do you have to trust God like a little child?
Trace your open hands on a sheet of paper. Write a Lenten prayer inside the praying hands, then cut them out and place them somewhere you will see it often leading up to Easter.
Pray your Lenten prayers together.
There are many who identify themselves as Christians, yet don’t engage with a church. If this sounds like you, then use this Lenten season to commit yourself to the community of God’s people. If you are a follower of Christ and have never been baptized, make every effort to be baptized as soon as possible. If you have been baptized, remember that in baptism you were incorporated into a community, the family of God.
Parents, the Lenten season is a wonderful time to help your children realize that the Church is their family, that worship is their first duty and greatest joy. If your children understand the Gospel, this season could be a wonderful time to take the steps toward having them grow in their faith through baptism, acts of compassion or service, church involvement, or taking part in Communion at the Lord’s Table. As Lent begins this year, our prayer for you is that this would be a truly blessed season, a time of genuine and significant spiritual growth for you and for your family.