September 11, 2022
Luke 15: 1-32
The opening words for today´s Gospel place us firmly in the center of the conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees and scribes and therefore in the crossroad of our choice to really be a living follower of Jesus. Who believes in and seriously believes herself or himself a follower of Jesus cannot avoid this conflict. With whom do we gather in our daily life? Do we perceive the suffering around us? Are we able to let ourselves get involved in the suffering of others? Or are our lives just too busy to embrace this increasing reality of suffering, rejection and marginalization in our society? Do we place ourselves in situations where we share and commune with those different from us, those whom our society rejects and marginalizes? As the scribes and Pharisees grumble about receiving and eating with sinners, Jesus surrounds them with three wonderful and illuminating parables. The parables of the pastor and his lost sheep and the woman and her lost coin are daily examples in our lives. Many of our daily life experiences probably reflect the parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin, at least the losing of something important and precious to us. The question is: what happens when we have found the lost sheep or coin? Do we really celebrate? Do we call in our friends and our community to rejoice and share in our gratitude? Do we have a community where we can do this kind of sharing and rejoicing? Do we have a community with whom we can welcome the poor, needy and lost in our society? Do we have a community with whom we can share our lives and possessions, with whom we can share our meals, our celebrations, our preoccupations? Do we have a community in which we can welcome others who are alone, lost and hungry? If we have no such place in our lives, how can we be followers of Jesus? How can we live the way he lived, be the way he is, offer hope, life and community for ourselves and others?
The parable of the Father and his two sons places us in the midst of this tragedy, the tragedy of not creating and building community, the tragedy of not having time, the tragedy of the individualism that surrounds and envelops us, the losing sight of the call Jesus offers in our lives. The parable of the two sons is not about the prodigal son as we have so often been told. It is about a family that lives perhaps under the same roof, but in worlds distant and isolated from one another. The sons are not brothers. The brothers are not sons. This relationship does not exist. The father is father, relates and acts as father, but relationship father and son is nonexistent. WHY? The father hears and attends the desires of his youngest son. But in the division remembers the oldest son as well. This oldest son remains silent until the end of the parable. The youngest intoxicated with his own dreams and wants, takes his portion and goes off. After spending all of his inheritance, the youngest son is hungry, cold and alone. He finds some type of service caring for pigs. But he was not allowed to eat their food. In his hunger, humiliation and destitution he remembers his father´s house and the way his father treats the servants and workers. To alleviate his needs, the son returns to his father´s house hoping to be hired and receive the just wage his father always offered. There is no sign of remorse, recognition of error, desire to ask pardon. He simple recognizes the reality he has created and acting within that reality advises his father that he realizes he has lost his right to be considered a son.
The father, however, responds totally as father, compassionate, rejoicing that his lost son has returned. He goes out to welcome him, embraces, kisses, and calls for clothing and regalia worthy of his son. He also calls the servants to prepare the celebration banquet, inviting all to participate. “For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” And they began to celebrate. But there is no indication in the parable that the son has assumed his returned status, that he actually recognizes his error, the he rejoices in being again member of the family.
And suddenly the oldest son appears and reacts. As he nears the house he hears the music and celebration. He calls the servants to discover what is happening. His response is anger and a refusal to enter into the celebrations. His father goes to him and entreats him. But he answers his father: “Look. These many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property (my Property?) with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!”
And the father´s response: “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.”
The parable ends. The younger son seems to continue in the midst of the celebration, though clearly has yet to comprehend the consequences of his rash acts and decisions. The older son, angry and revolted remains outside and far from the celebration. There is celebration, food, drink and noise. But community does not exist. The youngest son returned but the family is not alive and well to receive him, to walk with him, to lead him to true repentance and new life. The oldest son remains intolerant, indignant and unable to open his heart and home to a lost brother who begins to walk the path to new life. We return to the beginning of todays’ Gospel: “Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to Jesus. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumble saying: “this man receives sinners and eats with them”. Where am I? Where are we in this gospel, in this parable? What does Jesus call us to?
Luke 15: 1-32
Now the tax collectors and “sinners” were all gathering around to hear him. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.
“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.
“Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ So he got up and went to his father.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
“Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’
“The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’
” ‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ ”
The Gospel of the Lord