In the Lectionary

March 31, Lent 4C (Luke 15:1–3, 11b–32)

What if we are the Pharisees?

Sometimes little stories from our youth come back to mind later with renewed and unexpected meaning. When I was seven or eight I giggled at a story about a man who went to the movies and, upon seeing the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer roaring lion, decided that he had already seen that movie and walked out of the theater. Silly as the story may be, I now take it as a warning—because many of us do something similar when we hear scripture that we already know well.

“There was a man who had two sons,” we hear in the Gospel lesson for today. We immediately recognize this as the beginning of the parable of the prodigal son, so we may decide that we do not have to pay much attention—we already know the story and its point.

But when we really listen to it, scripture can surprise us. This is part of what makes it the word of God: no matter the situation in which we find ourselves, when we read it afresh God speaks to us and our circumstances. Today, as we read this passage within the context of Lent, that context may help us hear a new word.