Sunday, September 11, 2016

Reflection: Luke 15:1-32

The Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Luke 15:1-32

Today the Pharisees continue their criticism of Jesus. They are upset and angry that he not only welcomes sinners but that he also has the audacity to actually sit down at table and eat with them. How dare he do this! And as always, Jesus is able to read the minds and the hearts of the Pharisees.

However, Jesus decides to respond to their unspoken criticism in a roundabout way. As he often does, Jesus tells them a parable. Today’s parable is the familiar Prodigal Son parable. We know that the father in the story had two sons. The youngest son came and asked his father for his inheritance. The father agreed to his request and he divided all that he had and gave his second son his fair share. This son immediately took his inheritance and left. He had wanderlust and wanted to see the wonders of the world.

On the other hand, the eldest son was extremely responsible. He was very obedient to his father and he managed the estate. He was dutiful and was a good steward of all that was in his charge, including the servants and the temporalities. The eldest son was faithful to his father and to his duties.

The youngest son went off and squandered his inheritance on loose living. However, after the money ran out he actually had to tend swine for a period of time as he had no real skills. His life consisted of drudgery and hard and dirty work as he cared for another farmer’s swine.

Finally, the younger son came to his senses. He decided to return home. It was his hunger and poverty that brought him to his senses. He had nothing to eat. He was so hungry that he thought about eating what the swine were eating. He knew that his father’s servants were well fed. And if he worked for his father, at least he would have food to eat and a roof over his head.

However, he also realized that he would have to ask his father for forgiveness. He knew that he had received his share of his inheritance; therefore, his father owed him nothing. However, if he could work for his father, at least he would have food to eat and a place to live. So the youngest son began his journey home.

Imagine that you are the youngest son who is returning home. What thoughts are going through your mind? Are you planning what you will say to your father? How high is your anxiety level? What is your greatest fear? And yet, what do you have to lose? Your life is in shambles and if needed, you will accept whatever is given to you, no matter how menial it might be. Your pride has to be left behind.

As we well know, the father had been looking for his son since the day his son had left him. Every day the father went out hoping that he would see his son walking up the road. And up until this day, every day the father had returned home sad, yearning for his son to come home. Day after day the father waited.

Finally the day arrives when the father saw someone coming down the road and realized, it was his youngest son! Luke writes that the father was filled with compassion (and perhaps great joy and happiness). As soon as he saw his son, he ran to him and embraced him. Immediately, the prodigal son knew that he truly was forgiven and he realized how deeply his father loved him.

Today is a good day to place ourselves in the shoes of the prodigal son or the prodigal daughter. At times in our lives, we also have left the home of our God. We have wandered away and perhaps we also have squandered what little we had. How long did we keep our distance from God? Were we afraid that God would never forgive us? Perhaps we thought we did not deserve to be forgiven. And yet, God is always on the watch for us, yearning for us, waiting for us to return home. God will never stop loving us!

Take a few moments and thank God for the steadfast love, care and blessings that God has bestowed on you in your life. Bask for a few moments in this reality. There is no greater gift. God will never leave us! And if (and when) we do leave God for a period of time, God patiently will look for us and wait for us until we return home! Then the celebration for us begins!

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