for Sunday, September 16, 2007
From the time of early salvation history the human condition has experienced its sinfulness and its need to turn to the Lord for mercy and forgiveness. It might be said that people were stiff-necked and rebellious, as we see in our first reading from Exodus. The wrath of the Lord would have blazed up and consumed them, but at the plea of Moses for mercy the Lord relented in his intent to punish his people.
The Gospel reading that dominates the scene is the powerful story of the Prodigal Son. Some would say it ought to be called the story of the Prodigal Father, because of the Fatherís overwhelming love and forgiveness. As the scene developed, the father ran out to meet his son as the boy returned to his fatherís house, and his homecoming was celebrated with great festivity.
The fatherís love for his son is the image of Godís love for his people, and it reminds us again that Christ came into the world to save sinners. The point of Jesusí parable was to show the difference between Godís loving forgiveness and the selfish complacency that denies love and, in fact, cannot even understand it. The elder son is a case in point. In his anger he remonstrated with his father about the love he showed to the younger son. Even to the elder son the father extended his love, bypassed the sonís anger, and drew him into the family circle. ďSon, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.Ē Nevertheless, the father did not relent in his love for the younger son. ďIt is fitting to make merry and be glad for your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.Ē
Some see in this story an element of maturation in the younger sonís growth and development. He attempted to break out of the patriarchal pattern of the prevailing culture by making an adult decision to assume responsibility for himself. The fact that he failed showed his humanness. His decision to return to his father shows growth in the right direction. His inheritance was gone, but he faced the reality of working to rebuild his situation. "Be perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect," that is, love all unconditionally just as God loves me and be ready to forgive and be reconciled with everyone just as he does. It is not easy, but it is also by no means impossible or the one hating? Nearly always it is the hater. If we have any sense, we will follow Jesus, not just because he tells us in the name of God but also because it is the better way. The Prodigal Son learnt that lesson the hard way. We are meant to learn from him.
Readings of the day:
Reflections are available for the following Sundays: