This meditation places your students in the scene of Jesus’ famous Prodigal Son parable (Luke 15:11–32), the Gospel reading for the fourth Sunday of Lent. Tell them to allow themselves to picture Jesus’ story and to sit with what it means to them. Then begin. Read the following slowly. Pause at the end of sentences. Pause even longer for the bold face directions.

Quiet down.
Enjoy the silence.

Breathe in.
Breath out.
Breathe in.
Breathe out.

Totally relax.
Go to that safe place in your mind’s eye.
That place where you can just be.
Where no one can find you, disrupt you.
Where you can be with your thoughts.

Imagine . . . 

Come to the teacher again.
He is there.
It is a beautiful day and the sun is shining.
You have been following the teacher around to various parts of the region.
Your friends are next to you as you sit and listen to him.
It is fascinating.
He begins to tell a story.

Picture the scene.

He tells you to imagine everything he says.
Two sons.
The younger one decides he wants his inheritance.
So the father gives this son what he would eventually inherit.
The son packs up all his belongings and leaves for the city.

Imagine doing this.

The son loves city life.
He loves the lights, the fast pace, action.
He goes to bars, stays out all hours, and parties very hard.
Eventually, the son spends everything he inherited.
He is wiped out.
His money is gone.
He finds himself on the streets without a place to live, or food to eat.
He looks for a job.

He becomes a laborer on a landowner’s farm.
He is spent.
He has to feed his hunger with food intended for pigs.
Imagine eating and sleeping in a pig’s trough.

He is lying there hungry.
He thinks of home.
He thinks of his bed,
the warmth,
the food,
the security.
He makes a decision.
He will go back home and ask his dad to take him back.
He will work for his dad like a hired hand.
His dad treats laborers better than this landowner.
He begins the trip back home.
He wonders if he will be accepted.
What is the journey like?

The younger son is almost there.
Down the road his father seems him coming.
The son sees the father.
How do they feel?

The father runs back to the house and announces, “Prepare for a welcome home party!”
He goes back outside.
He runs to his son.
His arms outstretched.
Tears are running down his face.
They hug.
Watch the scene unfold.
Watch as the son asks for forgiveness.
Watch the father respond with unconditional love.

Imagine the preparations that are being made for the party.
Watch as the older son comes home from work.
He arrives in the midst of the commotion.
He asks one of the workmen, “What is going on?”
“Your brother has come home and your dad is so happy that is is throwing a party.”
“What?” the son replies,
“For my brother who took off with dad’s money and left me to take care of everything?”
He refuses to go into the house.
He is very angry.
Watch the older son, how would it feel to be him?

The father sees his older son outside.
He goes out to talk to him.
The father says to him, “Isn’t it great that your brother is back?”
His older son moans, “You really aren’t taking him back are you?
He left us, remember?
Remember the pain,
the hurt,
the anger?
How can you just forget all that? I’m the one who stayed.
But you’ve never thrown me such an extravagant party!”
Listen to the conversation between father and son.
What do their facial expressions reveal?

The father looks into the son’s eyes.
He replies, “You are right, it was very painful when your brother left.
But he is back now and I want to rejoice that he finally came to his senses.
Listen, I know you have always been there for me—
everything I own is yours.
Don’t ever forget that.
I haven’t forgotten.
But we have to celebrate and rejoice.
This brother of yours was dead and he has come back to life.
He was lost and is found.”
What does it mean to say that the younger brother was dead.

Jesus calls you back from the story.
He looks at you.
You look at him.
He asks you, “Which son is more like you?”
Answer him.
Talk to him about the story.
Stay in the moment.

It is time to reenter this space.
Say good-bye for now.
Ask Jesus to lead your way into the rest of the day.
Say thank you.
Come back gently.
Open your eyes.
Sit up.

This meditation was written by Patty McCulloch and was originally published in Encountering Jesus: 20 Guided Meditations on His Care and Compassion.