“This man welcomes sinners and eats with them... his father went out to plead with him” This parable has the wrong title. It should be The Story of a Father- God. I say that because Jesus told the parable in response to the complaint of the Scribes and Pharisees, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them...” so it’s not about the son/s.
This father gives the younger son what was due him and that son went off and wasted what was his. On his return home there is a joyful celebratory welcome home. The elder son distanced himself from the Family celebrations because his brother unfeelingly disrespected and abused his father. Through it all the father addressed them as sons, even when the elder son cuts himself off from the family when he tells the father “All these years I’ve slaved for you ... and as for this son of yours (not my brother) etc. Notice too that when the elder son refuses to join the party, Jesus tells us “The father went out to plead with him...”
Today, more than ever, our church must be such that while it respects the rights of people to live as they please, even to the point of distancing themselves from Our Father’s love, it must plead with them and welcome them and eat with them. Our church should be such that what was said of Jesus should be said of it... “This Church welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
Fr. Clement Paul,