Spiritual Joy: A Lesson from the Prodigal Son
March 11th Readings Reflection: Saturday of the Second Week of Lent
Today’s Gospel is the famous Parable of the Prodigal Son. While reading the Gospel in preparation for this reflection, the following passage in particular stood out to me: “[T]he younger son said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of your estate that should come to me.’ So the father divided the property between them.” This was the younger son’s fatal error: he wanted instant gratification, desiring to receive his reward immediately rather than wait until his father had died to inherit it. Since this parable can be interpreted allegorically, with a spiritual parallel, there is an important theological lesson to be learned from this.
In the Old Testament, God promised temporal—or earthly—rewards if the Israelites remained faithful to His covenant with them. He also punished them with physical curses, such as plagues and famines, when they failed to obey His laws. Bishop Challoner, who wrote the notes for the Douay-Rheims Bible, explained that God used temporal blessings and curses in the Old Testament because Heaven was not yet opened, and the effects of Original Sin made people “more moved with present and sensible things.”Without God’s grace in their souls, the people of the Old Testament were more likely to respond to promises of physical blessings rather than spiritual blessings.
Now that Christ has opened the Gates of Heaven and restored the life of grace in our souls, He promises us “spiritual and eternal” blessings in return for obeying Him.We know that the things of this earth are passing and that the only true treasure consists of spiritual blessings. As Jesus said regarding the Pharisees who sought praise for their fasting and almsgiving, “[T]hey have received their reward” (Mt 6:2 DRB). While God does grant us countless blessings and graces in this life, we shall receive the fullness of His blessings when we—God willing—reach our heavenly home. There, we will experience eternal joy as we reside in the presence of the Trinity forever with all the saints and angels.
In the meantime, however, we must not become impatient and seek out lesser rewards. In the age of technology, our world is filled with allurements that many people pursue in place of God. While there are certainly numerous earthly goods that are worthy of being enjoyed, they can never bring us the ultimate happiness and fulfillment that we seek. There will always be something inside of us that longs for more; our Faith teaches that this is our natural longing for God, Who is goodness itself. Through the Church’s sacraments, particularly the Holy Eucharist, we are able to receive God’s grace and experience a foretaste of the joys of Heaven.
Thus, we are not left completely without any joy or reward in this life, as long as we remember that true joy can only be found in God. When the Prodigal Son realized that even his father’s hired workers had more to eat than he did, he was able to appreciate the many blessings that had filled his life without the inheritance. This realization led him to return to his father’s house, where, we read, “the celebration began.”
The life of a Christian should be one of joy, for we have the promise of eternal life to give us hope in the darkest of days. May our Lenten penances help us appreciate the many blessings that God has already given us, so that we may rejoice more fully in the glory of His Resurrection.
Bishop Challoner, notes for Dt 28:2, at DRBO, www.DRBO.org.
Challoner, notes for Dt 28:15.
Awesome reflection. We often trade true eternal joy for immediate gratification.
“May our Lenten penances help us appreciate the many blessings that God has already given us, so that we may rejoice more fully in the glory of His Resurrection.” - Amen! Thank you for this beautiful reflection on today’s Gospel.