11 September 2010


24th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lk 15:1-32

Two religious attitudes collide in the gospel today, and the collision is highly significant. What is the right attitude toward sinners? On the one hand, we have the scribes and the Pharisees who protest Jesus’ open mingling with public sinners. They believe that religious people should stay away not only from sin but from sinners as well. They strongly believe in segregation. On the other hand, Jesus completely opposes their view. Instead of staying away from sinners, Jesus mingles with them and even eats with them. And He does this in the sight of everyone. Thus, to the question “What is the correct attitude toward sinners”, the scribes and the Pharisees answer with “segregation” but Jesus replies with compassion.

Lk 19:10 reveals to us the mind of Christ regarding His understanding of His mission: “For the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.” For the Pharisees – whose name literally means “the separated ones” – and for the scribes, who are the experts of the Law, this view of Jesus on His mission is a distorted view. They cannot take it and so they keep on complaining why Jesus openly associates Himself with public sinners. Both public sinners and the self-righteous religious leaders, however, seek Jesus’ company and listen to His words. Thus, Jesus narrates the story that is the favorite of many through ages: The Parable of the Prodigal Son.

A man had two sons whom he loved so much but who both abandoned him. The younger son abandoned him by leaving home while the elder abandoned him, too, even by staying home. The younger left home with an inheritance taken prior to his father’s passing away while the elder stayed home with a hatred that was far from merely passing. On the one hand, the younger left home, thinking that he would experience joy away from his father only to realize in the end that his joy is in his father’s heart. On the other hand, the elder stayed home but, surprisingly, never considered himself a son but a slave.

When the younger son realized his mistake, he thought he was no longer worthy to be called a son. He left home, thinking that joy was anywhere except in his own family, but he arrived at just where he left: his home. And, though his father welcomed him as his son, he was no longer the same person when he returned. At the end of his journey, he had a new understand of himself as a son and a deeper appreciation of his father’s embrace. This is the same with what the poet T. S. Eliot wrote:

At the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

But the elder son? Aha, with all his obedience to his father, he looks at himself as a slave! Obedience for him is not service but servitude, not love but slavery. His staying home is, after all, not a staying with the father but with a master. He who stayed home was not a son but a slave. When his father pleaded with him to enter and join in the feast for the return of his younger brother, he was enraged and, like a long sleeping volcano, he suddenly erupted with fire and fury: “All this years,” he dared berate his father, “I have slaved for you. I never disobeyed even one of your orders. But you have not given me even a kid goat to feast on with my friends. But when this son of yours came home, after squandering your hard-earned money with loose women, you even killed the fatted calf for him.” His anger was such that he was practically immobilized outside their house. He could not enter into their own home not because he was forbidden but because he simply wouldn’t. Do you notice that when the parable started, it was the younger son who went out of the house while the elder stayed inside it, but when it ended, it was the elder son who was outside while the younger was inside?

The words of their father can melt anyone’s heart. “My son,” the father immediately reminded his first-born, “you are with me always; and all that I have is yours.” Wallowing in the mud of hatred, envy, and self-pity, however, the elder son failed to realized that if all that the father had was his and the younger son belonged to the father, therefore, the returnee was not only his father’s prodigal son but his own reconciled brother. And because he failed to understand this, the elder son simply could not share in his father’s joy. How pathetic.

How pathetic we are if we were that elder son. But are we?

Among the many golden lessons of this parable, what we should focus on is not only the fact that the father loved both his sons. We should not miss the point that the father also lived in the hope that his sons would love each other as much as he loved each of them. That kind of love mirrors the personal and unconditional love of God for each of us. That same kind of hope, God, our Father, has in His heart. God loves us more than we know so that we, in turn, may love one another. The reason why Jesus commands us to love one another is that He has loved us first. And we are to love one another not with our hearts but with the heart of Christ. “A new commandment I give unto you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” says the Lord in Jn 13:34.

It is very intriguing that Jesus did not end His parable today. What could have happened, if after his father’s explanation, the elder son still refused to go in? What could the younger son do had he learned that his elder brother was outside the house and would not go in? What else would the father do to persuade his elder son to rejoice with him? How about the younger son’s resolution to be a better man – would it be lasting or fleeting? We are left hanging. We simply do not know what happened next. I suppose, Jesus intentionally kept His story open-ended. He did not give the parable a clear conclusion because He wanted us to give it an ending ourselves.

For this is our story. How will we conclude it?


At 9:17 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Lord Jesus,there are many times in our lives, that we have gone astray, we've lost our way, we took the wrong turn, we were tempted to the path of materialism, indifference and selfishness. Yet Lord, You are ever present wanting us to come back to Your fold.

Thank You Lord Jesus for Your unending and unconditional Love, Yourcompassion, Your forgiveness and Your mercy.

You made us believe that even when we perceive, we are at the end of the rope, You showed us that You are our Hope.That even
to the point of being the worst, will come out the best, irregardless of who we are and where we came from.

You can make all things possible for You are God. God is Love.
The miracle of Your Love,... it heals division, it turneth away wrath and it can move mountains.

In You alone we believe. Amen

...Thank you Fr. Bobby for making your Homily interesting,,
clear, easy to understand and concise all the time.Because of your great Love for Jesus, it is very much implied in preparing your Homilies.

God bless you and family.

- rory


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