I puzzled over this week’s Old Testament passage for a long time. It is
hard to see its connection to the other readings. But if we read this
ancient story through a lens refracted by the forgiveness and
celebration themes highlighted in the other lectionary texts, there are
at least tentative connections.
As we move deeper into Lent and its emphasis on repentance, spiritual introspection, self-examination and self-denial, many of us choose to practice Lenten disciplines. If we have become involved in the season’s imagery and expectations, we may find ourselves reading biblical texts from a spare and minimalist perspective.
A recent New Yorker article on Mary Magdalene, obviously written with an eye on her role as Jesus’ paramour in Dan Brown’s best-selling The Da Vinci Code, began by noting that “Brown is by no means the first to have suggested that Christ had a sex life—Martin Luther said it” (February 13-20).
"A man had two sons . . .” was a common way to begin a parable, especially one comparing good and bad sons. Matthew uses it to contrast one son, who promises to work in the vineyard but never shows up, with another, who at first adamantly refuses to go to the vineyard but later repents and goes (21:28-32). Which one did the will of his father, asks Jesus? Not the one who talked a good game, but the one who actually followed through with obedient actions.
Maybe it’s just my imagination, but has the parable of the prodigal son become something of a bore lately? I know, I know, this is one of the most beautiful stories of grace in the Bible. And yes, I know this is a powerful archetype of human redemption.