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Paul opens his letter with what will become known as the three theological virtues of faith, hope, and love. As you prepare for this evening, think through the role that each of these three virtues plays within the life of the Church and the life of a Christian.
Because the greeting in 1 Thessalonians 1:1 is from Paul, Silas, and Timothy, the general consensus is that this letter was written from Corinth fairly soon after Paul had left Thessalonica. This is the very first of Paul’s correspondence.
The letter is paranetic or pastoral in the manner of contemporary Stoics (like Seneca) or Cynics (like Dio Chrysostom). In the first part of the letter, Paul presents himself as a father or a nurse, and then he offers consolation to his audience for the trials they have suffered.
The purpose of the parable isn’t to teach us that God will always welcome us home or to be a joyful rule follower. Rather, the heart of the parable, and indeed the very heart of the Gospel, is to teach us what it means to become the Father.
Salvation is not a change in location but a change in being. It is not about going to Heaven but becoming the Father in whose likeness we are to become.
Fr. Nouwen posits that the ultimate lesson of the parable, and indeed the core message of the Gospel, is that we are to become like the Father. We are called to imitate the compassionate God that is disclosed to us as the compassionate father in the parable.
At the end of each parable in Luke 15, the main character goes to their neighbors and says rejoice with me for that which was lost has been found. Think about how we, as the Church, are called to this rejoicing.
In th epainting, look at the father’s hands. The father’s left hand is masculine and grasps the son tight, whereas the right hand is feminine and rests gently on the younger son to comfort him as only a mother can.
What is the basis of the older son’s relationship with the Father? Is there any hope for the elder son?
Nouwen calls the older son’s resentful conduct the “frozen anger among the saints.” This anger develops into a “pathology of darkness” from which the older brother cannot escape.
Is repentance and reconciliation within the contemplation of the younger son? Does he anticipate any change in his relationship with the father? At this point in the story, has the younger son learned anything from his experience? Do you agree with Fr. Nouwen that Jesus himself can be seen as the…
In making his decision to return home, has anything really changed about the younger son? Is the younger son’s request simply driven by selfish desire or is he beginning to realize the true nature of his relationship with the father?