King James Bible
with Catholic Commentary by George Leo Haydock

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Luke 15

Parables of the lost sheep, and the piece of silver. (1-10) The prodigal son, his wickedness and distress. (11-16) His repentance and pardon. (17-24) The elder brother offended. (25-32)

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Parables of the lost sheep, and the piece of silver

1 Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him.

2 And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.

3 And he spake this parable unto them, saying,

4 What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?

5 And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing.

6 And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.

7 I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.

8 Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it?

9 And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost.

10 Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.

The prodigal son, his wickedness and distress

11 And he said, A certain man had two sons:

12 And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living.

13 And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living.

14 And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want.

15 And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.

16 And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him.

His repentance and pardon

17 And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!

18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee,

19 And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.

20 And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.

21 And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.

22 But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet:

23 And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry:

24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.

The elder brother offended

25 Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard musick and dancing.

26 And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant.

27 And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound.

28 And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and intreated him.

29 And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends:

30 But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf.

31 And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine.

32 It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.

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G Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ver. 4. What man, &c. Christ left the ninety-nine in the desert, when he descended from the angelic choirs, in order to seek last man on the earth, that he might fill up the number of the sheepfold of heaven, from which his sins had excluded him. S. Amb. — Neither did his affection for the last sheep make him behave cruelly to the rest; for he left them in safety, under the protection of his omnipotent hand. S. Cyril de D. Thoma Aquin.

Ver. 7. Joy in heaven, &c. What incitement ought it not to be to us to practise virtue, when we reflect that our conversion causes joy to the troops of blessed spirits, whose protection we should always seek, and whose presence we should always revere. S. Amb. — There is greater joy for the conversion of a sinner, than for the perseverance of the just; but it frequently happens, that these being free from the chain of sin, remain indeed in the path of justice, but press not on eagerly to their heavenly country; whilst such as have been sinners, are stung with grief at the remembrance of their former transgressions, and calling to mind how they have forsaken their God, endeavour by present fervour to compensate for their past misconduct. But it must be remembered that there are many just, whose lives cause such joy to the heavenly court, that all the penitential exercises of sinners cannot be preferred before them. S. Gregory, hom. xxxiv.

Ver. 8. In the preceding parable, the race of mankind is compared to a lost sheep, to teach us that we are the creatures of the most high God, who made us, and not we ourselves, of whose pasture we are the sheep. Ps. xcix. And in this parable mankind are compared to the drachma, which was lost, to shew us that we have been made to the royal likeness and image even of the omnipotent God; for the drachma is a piece of money, bearing the image of the king. S. Chrysos. in S. Tho. Aquin.

Ver. 10. Before the angels. By this it is plain that the spirits in heaven have a concern for us below, and a joy at our repentance, and consequently a knowledge of it. Ch.

Ver. 11. A certain man had two sons. By the elder son is commonly expounded the Jewish people, who for a long time had been chosen to serve God; and by the younger son, the Gentiles, who for so many ages had run blindly on in their idolatry and vices. Wi. — Some understand this of the Jews and Gentiles, others of the just and sinners. The former opinion seems preferable. The elder son, brought up in his father’s house, &c. represents the Jews; the younger prodigal is a figure of the Gentiles. Calmet.

Ver. 12. It is very probable, from this verse, that the children of the family, when come to age, could demand of their parents the share of property which would fall to their lot. For these parables suppose the ordinary practices of the country, and are founded on what was customarily done. Grotius thinks this was the common law among the Phœnicians. — The Gentiles, prefigured by the prodigal son, received from their father, (the Almighty,) free-will, reason, mind, health, natural knowledge, and the goods which are common to mankind, all which they dissipated and abused. Sinners who have besides received the gift of faith and sanctification, by baptism, and who have profaned the holiness of their state, by crimes, are more express figures of the bad conduct of this son. Calmet.

Ver. 16. Husks. This expresses the extreme misery of his condition. There is no need of seeking any other mystery in this word. Horace, by a kind of hyperbole, (B. ii, Ep. 1.) represents the miser as living upon husks to be able to save more.

Vivit siliquis et pane secundo.

And no man gave unto him; i.e. gave him bread, mentioned before; for as for the husks, he could take what he pleased. Wi.

Ver. 18. How merciful is the Almighty, who, though so much offended, still does not disdain the name of father. — I have sinned. These are the first words of a sinner’s confession to the author of nature. God knows all things; still does he expect to hear the voice of your confession. It is in vain to think of concealing your sins from the eyes of him whom nothing can escape; and there can be no danger of acknowledging to him what his infinite knowledge has already embraced. Confess then that Christ may intercede for you, the Church pray for you, the people pour forth their tears for you. Fear not that you cannot obtain pardon, for pardon is promised to you; grace, and a reconciliation with a most tender parent, are held out to you. S. Ambrose. — Before thee, &c. By this does our Redeemer shew, that the Almighty is here to be understood by the name of father: for the all-seeing eye of God only beholds all things, from whom even the secret machinations of the heart cannot be concealed. S. Chrys. ex D. Tho.

Ver. 22. The first; i.e. the best robe: by it, is meant the habit of grace. Wi.

Ver. 24. Was dead, and is come to life again. A sinner, in mortal sin, is deprived of the divine grace, which is the spiritual life of the soul. At his conversion it is restored to him, and he begins to live again. Wi.

Ver. 25. His elder son, &c. We have already remarked, that this son represents the Jews. He boasts of having always served his father faithfully, and of never disobeying him. This is the language of that presumptuous people, who believe themselves alone holy; and despising the Gentiles with sovereign contempt, could not bear to see the gates of salvation laid open also to them. The 28th, 29th, and 30th verses express admirably the genius of the Jewish people; particularly his refusing to enter his father’s house, shews their obstinacy. Calmet.

Ver. 29. I have never transgressed, &c. With what face could the Jews, represented here by the eldest son, say they have never transgressed the commandments of their father? This made Tertullian think that this was not the expression of the Jews, but of the faithful Christians; and, therefore, he interprets the whole parable as applied to a disciple of Christ. But we should recollect, that it is not uncommon for presumption to boast of what it never has done. The whole history of the Jews is full of numberless details of their prevarication and disobedience. Calmet. — A kid, &c. The Jews demanded a kid, but the Christians a lamb; therefore was Barabbas set at liberty for them, whilst for us the lamb was immolated. S. Amb.