We are not all weeds, but we are not all wheat, either. We have to learn, even now, to accept and forgive this mixed bag of reality in ourselves and in everybody else.
Parables are a wisdom genre. They belong to mashal, the Jewish branch of the universal tradition of sacred poetry, stories, proverbs, riddles, and dialogues through which wisdom is conveyed.
Jesus says that God is like the shepherd, seeking always to find those who are out of community with their fellows, and when they have found it, when they have found their community with their fellows, then all the world seems to fit back into place, and life takes on a new meaning.
Do we want to be a part of the wedding feast to which all are invited? The only people who don’t get in on the party are those who don’t want to come—so I guess we have to ask ourselves, “Do we want to come?”
If this is really the parable of the Sower and not the parable of the different kinds of ground, then it begins to sound quite new. The focus is not on us and our shortfalls but on the generosity of our maker, the prolific sower who does not obsess about the condition of the fields, who is not stingy with the seed but who casts it everywhere.
—Barbara Brown Taylor
When we expect, we’re soon going to resent it when we don’t get what we think we deserve. So, what the Gospel says is “Stop expecting!” Everything is a gift.
Lectio Divina with the Parable of the Prodigal Son
Cynthia Bourgeault unpacks how the parable of the Prodigal Son challenges our typical forms of judgment. Click here to read the Gospel passage (Luke 15:11–32), and pay particular attention to the older brother’s response.
The egoic operating system will always get stuck in judgment and self-meritoriousness. The older brother with his indignant “This isn’t fair!” is a textbook example of the egoic operating system at work. Through him, Jesus is asking us to look closely at that part in each one of us that insists on keeping score, that can’t let go into the generosity and the blessedness. The parable’s concluding image—of the older son standing alone outside, refusing to join the party because he feels he has been slighted—is a vivid symbol of the way the egoic operating system holds us back from joining the dance of Divine Mercy in full swing all around us. If we’re stuck in the ego, we can’t hear the music. . . .
When we look closely at this parable, we discover . . . it’s a challenge to the basic structures, assumptions, and beliefs about ourselves that keep the binary mind firmly in place. It’s supposed to challenge you; it’s supposed to make you angry—and it’s supposed to make you look at yourself more closely. This parable provides particularly rich ground for lectio divina. . . . As you sit with it in meditation, see if you can discover where all three of these characters—older son, younger son, and father—live within your own being and what part each one plays in your life. Allow the parable to become a mirror that reflects back to you your own state of consciousness. If you work with it that way, you’re using it the way Jesus really intended it, as a tool for personal transformation of consciousness. 
If you are new to the practice of lectio divina, we offer these instructions from Father Richard:
Read the selected passage slowly four times. With the first reading (perhaps aloud), listen with your heart’s ear for a phrase or word that stands out for you. During the second reading, reflect on what touches you, speaking that phrase or word aloud or writing about it in a journal. Third, respond with a prayer or expression of what you have experienced and to what you are called. Fourth, rest in silence after the reading. 
 Cynthia Bourgeault, The Wisdom Jesus: Transforming Heart and Mind—a New Perspective on Christ and His Message (Boston, MA: Shambhala Publications, 2008), 49–50.
 Adapted from Richard Rohr, A Spring within Us: A Book of Daily Meditations (Albuquerque, NM: CAC Publishing, 2016), 30.
Explore Further. . .
- Listen to Richard’s homily “The Prodigal Father.”
- Learn more about this year’s theme Nothing Stands Alone.
- Meet the team behind the Daily Meditations.
Image credit: Carrie Grace Littauer, Untitled 12 (detail), 2022, photograph, Colorado, used with permission. Claudia Retter, Bexley Park (detail), used with permission. Claudia Retter, Oak and Moss (detail), photograph, used with permission. Jenna Keiper & Leslye Colvin, 2022, triptych art, United States. Click here to enlarge image.
This week’s images by Carrie Grace Littauer and Claudia Retter appear in a form inspired by early Christian/Catholic triptych art: a threefold form that tells a unified story.
Image inspiration: Parables require us to take a second look. These images make us pause and wonder, “what is that, really?” Perhaps it’s my own shadow, responding from the subconscious with knee-jerk reactions and judgments.
Prayer for our community:
God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough, because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord, Amen.