Advanced search Click here for the website of the current Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby

This is an archived website containing material relating to Dr Rowan Williams’ time as Archbishop of Canterbury, which ended on 31st December 2012

Skip Content

7 March 2015

Read today’s Gospel Reading: Luke 15.1-3 and 11-end.

Who had to make the longest journey, the runaway son in this story, or the one who had stayed at home?

At one level, it’s obvious, it was the runaway, the younger son, who had demanded his share of his father’s wealth and wasted it in a far country. It was a long walk back to home. There was time to practise his ‘unworthiness, shame and pollution’ speech many times over.

But it was his older brother, who had never strayed far, for whom it was hardest to come home to the high octane celebration, prodigally given by the loving father.

For Jesus in telling the story, it is the loving father who is the central character. He is generous, forgiving, and warmhearted. He longs for his young son to come home, and when he does, he throws a party.

However he is saddened by the older son who cannot bring himself to share his happiness. So he goes out to his son in the field and tries to persuade him to come in. We never get to hear whether he succeeded. But this we know: love never gives us up and ‘bears all things’.

If only more people could join the loving father’s celebration! This story of the loving father with two sons assures me that following Jesus Christ is a pilgrimage of prayer and parties!  What better kind of party than a homecoming party?

Lent is not an ‘older brother’ exercise, geared towards making us feel good in ourselves but critical of everyone else. Not at all.  Quite the opposite. Lent is in the decision to come back home, in the father’s welcome embrace, in his challenge to the stubborn to come in and join the fun.

Today, why not plan a party for someone who least expects it? Or say yes to someone else’s invitation you find hard to accept?


Today’s Gospel Reading: Luke 15.1-3 and 11-end.

Now all the tax-collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, ‘This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.’

So he told them this parable:

Then Jesus said, ‘There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, “Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.” So he divided his property between them. A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and travelled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself he said, “How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.’ ” So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. Then the son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” But the father said to his slaves, “Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!” And they began to celebrate.

‘Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. He replied, “Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.” Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. But he answered his father, “Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!” Then the father said to him, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.” ’