RCL Year C Lent 4
Joshua 5:9-12, Psalm 32, II Corinthians 5:16-21, Saint Luke 15:1-3 and 11b-32

“Happy are they whose transgressions are forgiven, * and whose sin is put away!”[1]

The Old Testament Lesson and the Gospel, the Parable of the Prodigal Son, are tied together by a Feast, a Feast symbolic of Forgiveness.

The Feast in Joshua is the Passover, the meal commemorating the Israelites’ last meal in Egypt, before the Lord liberated them from their slavery there. The Lord says to Joshua, “Today I have rolled away from you the disgrace of Egypt.”[2] The Israelites enter Canaan, the land promised to Abraham and his descendants, and they keep the Feast of the Passover, and on the next day, in the land of milk and honey, they eat the produce of the land. There is no need to have the manna that they ate in the wilderness. Indeed the disgrace of slavery in Egypt is well and truly put away. The Israelites have been forgiven their backsliding, their grumbling, their worship of the calf of gold, and they now enjoy the promises the Lord made to Abraham.

The Feast in the Parable, also, is a declaration of forgiveness. The younger son has taken his inheritance early, travelled to a distant country, and spent it all on wine, women, and song. But he comes to himself and repents. He prepares to say to his father, “I have sinned against heaven and before you.”[3] When he arrives, his father does not give him time to get it all out. His father immediately rolls away the disgrace of his slavery to sin, and he commands the slaves to throw a Feast right away. Happy is he whose sins are forgiven and are put away. The Prodigal Son is forgiven because he has repented.

His older brother, however, resents the Feast that symbolizes his brother’s forgiveness, “For all these years I have been working like a slave for you,…yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends.”[4] The older brother is still enslaved to his sin because he has not repented. And since he has not repented, he is unforgiven, and there is no Feast.

In another Gospel Jesus says to other unrepentant sinners, “Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died.”[5] The question, of course, is whether the older brother will repent. Will he end his slavery to sin; will he mature and graduate from manna in the wilderness to a Feast in the Promised Land? His father’s arms are wide open to receive him, just like the arms of our Heavenly Father.

[1] Psalm 32:1.

[2] Joshua 5:9.

[3] Saint Luke 15:21.

[4] Saint Luke15:29.

[5] Saint John 6:49.