ICCH Bulletin of September 11, 2022
September 11, 2022 Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Welcome Father Martin Today’s Readings: Ex 32:7-11, 13-14 | 1 Tm 1:12-17 | Lk 15:1-32
In this Gospel passage of today Luke has put together three parables all stressing the dynamic of lost and found. The point the evangelist is making in each case is the generous willingness God demonstrates in accepting back the repentant sinner. In the first parable, the repentant sinner is symbolized in the lost sheep. The second parable focuses on the lost coin. The third parable presents a younger son and an elder son both of whom are lost. Luke makes it clear in each case, whether the man or the woman or the father, who assertively go after what is lost until found. Jesus himself does not focus on what is lost so much as the extravagant behaviour of the one doing the finding. From the perspective of Jesus, the finder does not require repentance for full and exuberant acceptance. He presents us with a picture of God whose generosity extends beyond any human generosity we imagine.
The first two parables on lost sheep and lost coin also declare the magnitude of the mercy of God. The first parable of the Lost Sheep which echoes the prophecy of Ezekiel regarding the forgiveness of God tells us that something precious is lost. There is the search for the lost one, the shepherd finds the sheep safe and there is rejoicing. He will seek the lost, and will bring back the strayed, and will bind up the injured and will strengthen the weak. The second Parable of the Lost Coin relates to us how valuable we are to God. The woman has lost something which is precious. She diligently searches for it and rejoices when she finds the lost coin. She rejoices with her friends and neighbours after the discovery. Jesus says that there will be similar rejoicing in heaven when a soul has a change of heart. Through the dynamics of lost and found Jesus explains the value of repentance.
In the parable of the Prodigal Son, we are given a most beautiful description of our heavenly Father. It is the Father who seems to be wasteful or prodigal as he is ready to give his property to his son. He is now outside the house eagerly waiting for the younger son to return. And when he does return his father runs to him, clasps him in his arms, and kisses him tenderly and he brings him into the house and throws a party for him. He comes out of the house once when he sees his older son angry, to persuade him to return into the house. In the same way, our heavenly Father comes out to welcome each of us to his party. The most beautiful line in the parable is what the father says to the elder son, “all I have is yours”. Our heavenly Father says also to us, “All I have is yours”.
But by the end of the story, we see that both of them in different ways prove themselves to be obstacles to the family unity and harmony which the father desired more than anything. That younger son reminds us of the struggle that takes place in society at this time to be successful. He convinces his father to give him his share of the inheritance and squanders the whole thing in a totally irresponsible way of living. But on his return, there is a surprise for him when the Father receives him back and restores him back to his former dignity of a son.
The elder son despises his younger brother for leaving and his father for accepting him back. He is now seen as an angry and hostile person. However, again the father breaks the social custom and pleads with the elder son to come in and join the celebration. The father truly wants his elder son there because he truly loves him. The elder son is not able to understand this. But the story tells us that the father loved both the sons beyond every possible human level and broke all cultural boundaries. He just goes out to love and accept his sons. This is the love proclaimed by God for us in Jesus.
In fact the entire problem began with the younger son. Normally the property was divided only after the death of the father. Then he abandons his duties and responsibilities in the family estate and goes abroad to live a life of fun. His reckless lifestyle drains his fortunes and he finds himself reduced to abject poverty and misery. That a Jewish prince like him should condescend to feed pigs, which Jews regard as unclean animals, shows the depths of degradation in which he finds himself. A life away from the divine quickly enough leads people to a situation where they lose all sense of shame and decency.
The prodigal son did not get the full opportunity to fully express to his father that he would become a paid servant. The Father immediately readmits him as part of the family. The younger son in reality had a warped notion of his father’s forgiveness. But now he had just learned the depth of the love of the Father. The elder son also did not know what forgiveness and love meant. He did not and could not forgive his younger brother for his misdeeds. In this parable, Jesus teaches us the depth of the generosity of God and his mercy.
The fact is that it is a marvellous story and we usually call it the “Prodigal Son” or wasteful son. But, as has often been pointed out, it is rather the story of the Prodigally Generous Father. It is the father who is the central figure. He gives generously to his younger son and also to the elder son.
One summer evening after a festal hour of singing and dancing the whole tribe sat around the chieftain. He began to speak to them: “If you have quarrelled with a brother and you have decided to kill him,” as he spoke he looked directly at the one of the group, “first sit down, fill your pipe and smoke it. When you have finished smoking you will realize that death is too severe a punishment for your enemy for the fault he has committed, and you decide to give a good whipping instead. Then you fill your pipe a second time and smoke it to the bottom. By then you feel that the lashes will be too much and instead some simple words of reproof would be sufficient. Then when the third time you have filled your pipe and smoked it to the finish, you will be better convinced that the better thing to do is to go to that brother and embrace him.
Source: Fr. Eugene Lobo S.J. Shimoga, India Image: James Tissot - The Lost Drachma
- 11 September - As announced recently, we say farewell to Fr. Martin this Sunday. Gracing this occassion will be Fr. Johannes Brandt of the Stadtkirche Heidelberg. We look forward to seeing you there in your numbers!