Stepping Into the Shoes of the Prodigal Son

“My son, you are here with me always; everything I have is yours.”  Luke 15:1-3, 11-32
    Reflection by Ben Neville, Capuchin Franciscan Volunteer Corps Midwest, Alumnus
       The beauty of parables is that they provide relevance regardless of who we are or the time period we inhabit.  Now, I will concede that not every person can relate to the specifics.  For instance, I’ve never been a farm hand, had servants, or even had a brother for that matter.  What I, and we all, can do is resonante with the overarching messages Jesus is trying to convey. These stand the test of time.

I look back on my volunteer experience and strongly connect with one theme from this parable in particular; the swallowing of one’s pride and the subsequent admission of, “I need help.”  Avoidance of appearing vulnerable mixed with a pinch of arrogance, yes, but a heavy helping of economic privilege allowed me the benefit of avoiding these words the majority of my life.  Most times I used this phrasing it was primarily out of laziness than necessity.  It wasn’t until I was living in simplicity that I had no choice but to seek help.  More help than even I care to admit.  This is not to say in any way I fully understand the plight of those facing economic hardships daily because I had a “drive by” experience in poverty.  It’s just to recognize the brief glimpse I had into the level of humility and vulnerability that comes with truly seeking help.  
Most importantly, this moment serves as a reminder to me to have the unwavering, celebratory love of the father, for we all have been the Prodigal Son at some point.

Dear Lord,

Grant me the wisdom to understand
The eyes I view my life with
Are not the same eyes that view my life
Make me mindful of the ripples I create as I enter the water
To not make assumptions even if they come with the best of intentions
Give me the empathy and strength necessary to do your work
To not only help but celebrate my brothers and sisters in need
Like the father celebrates the return of his son.


Focus on: Spirituality

Lectio Divina (Latin for “Divine Reading”) is the method for exploring scripture in less traditional manner. Rather than an analytical approach, the reader tries to actively enter the story to better understand Christ.  The four steps are read, meditate, pray, and contemplate. 

In the spirit of Lectio Divina, try to look at today’s reading several times through various lenses.  Consider the perspective of the prodigal son, the father, the jealous son, the servants, and any other character present of your choosing.  What sort of emotions come up as you contemplate each role, and can you relate to their point-of-view?  Now apply it to your life, examine the relationships you have in your community with fellow volunteers, the people you serve, and the people that serve you in this same light.  What might your volunteer experience look like through their eyes?

Service Suggestion:

            As a service provider for adults with developmental and mental disabilities for the past four years, I would encourage everyone to do some research on some of the group home networks in your area.  The unfiltered love present in these facilities is as encouraging and nurturing as I have found anywhere.  A love that isn’t shared nearly enough in this day and age.

           It is a cliché, but simply give the gift of time to these individuals.  Listen to their stories.  Sit quietly and engaged nonverbally with those who can’t communicate using their words.  Most importantly, laugh and have fun.  I promise you will go in with the mentality of “I am here to help” and will leave with the feeling of “I think they helped me more than anything.”

This reflection is part of our Lenten Series – Download the Lenten Guide Here

Related Stories