17 And returning to himself, he said: How many hired servants in my father’s house abound with bread, and I here perish with hunger? 18 I will arise, and will go to my father, and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee: 19 I am not worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.
Augustine: He returned to himself, when from those things which without unprofitably entice and seduce, he brought back his mind to the inward recesses of his conscience.
Chrysostom: As though he said, I am not a stranger, but the son of a good father, and the brother of an obedient son; I who am free and noble am become more wretched than the hired servants, sunk from the highest eminence of exalted rank, to the lowest degradations.
Ambrose: I have sinned; this is the first confession of sin to the Author of nature, the Ruler of mercy, the Judge of faith. But though God knows all things, He yet waits for the voice of thy confession. For with the mouth confession is made to salvation, since he lightens the load of error, who himself throws the weight upon himself, and shuts out the hatred of accusation, who anticipates the accuser by confessing. In vain would you hide from Him whom nothing escapes; and you may safely discover what you know to be already known. Confess the rather that Christ may intercede for thee, the Church plead for thee, the people weep over thee: nor fear that thou wilt not obtain; thy Advocate promises pardon, thy Patron favor, thy Deliverer promises thee the reconciliation of thy Father’s affection.
Basil: There are three different distinct kinds of obedience. For either from fear of punishment we avoid evil and are servilely disposed; or looking to the gain of a reward we perform what is commanded, like to mercenaries; or we obey the law for the sake of good itself and our love to Him who gave it, and so savor of the mind of children.
Ambrose: The son who has the pledge of the Holy Spirit in his heart seeks not the gain of an earthly reward, but preserves the right of an heir. These are also good husbandmen, to whom the vineyard is let out. They abound not in husks, but bread.
Scripture from the Douay-Rheims Bible. Commentary from St. Thomas Aquinas, Catena Aurea, Vol. III (London: Rivington, 1843).