The Gospel of the Day – 2016.09.11
The Good Shepherd, The Good Steward, The Good Father
The tax collectors and the sinners were all seeking the company of Jesus to hear what he had to say, and the Pharisees and the scribes complained. ‘This man’ they said ‘welcomes sinners and eats with them.’ So he spoke this parable to them:
‘What man among you with a hundred sheep, losing one, would not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the missing one till he found it? And when he found it, would he not joyfully take it on his shoulders and then, when he got home, call together his friends and neighbours? “Rejoice with me,” he would say “I have found my sheep that was lost.” In the same way, I tell you, there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one repentant sinner than over ninety-nine virtuous men who have no need of repentance.
‘Or again, what woman with ten drachmas would not, if she lost one, light a lamp and sweep out the house and search thoroughly till she found it? And then, when she had found it, call together her friends and neighbours? “Rejoice with me,” she would say “I have found the drachma I lost.” In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing among the angels of God over one repentant sinner.’
He also said, ‘A man had two sons. The younger said to his father, “Father, let me have the share of the estate that would come to me.” So the father divided the property between them. A few days later, the younger son got together everything he had and left for a distant country where he squandered his money on a life of debauchery.
‘When he had spent it all, that country experienced a severe famine, and now he began to feel the pinch, so he hired himself out to one of the local inhabitants who put him on his farm to feed the pigs. And he would willingly have filled his belly with the husks the pigs were eating but no one offered him anything. Then he came to his senses and said, “How many of my father’s paid servants have more food than they want, and here am I dying of hunger! I will leave this place and go to my father and say: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as one of your paid servants.” So he left the place and went back to his father.
‘While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with pity. He ran to the boy, clasped him in his arms and kissed him tenderly. Then his son said, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son.” But the father said to his servants, “Quick! Bring out the best robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the calf we have been fattening, and kill it; we are going to have a feast, a celebration, because this son of mine was dead and has come back to life; he was lost and is found.” And they began to celebrate.
‘Now the elder son was out in the fields, and on his way back, as he drew near the house, he could hear music and dancing. Calling one of the servants he asked what it was all about. “Your brother has come” replied the servant “and your father has killed the calf we had fattened because he has got him back safe and sound.” He was angry then and refused to go in, and his father came out to plead with him; but he answered his father, “Look, all these years I have slaved for you and never once disobeyed your orders, yet you never offered me so much as a kid for me to celebrate with my friends. But, for this son of yours, when he comes back after swallowing up your property – he and his women – you kill the calf we had been fattening.”
‘The father said, “My son, you are with me always and all I have is yours. But it was only right we should celebrate and rejoice, because your brother here was dead and has come to life; he was lost and is found.”’
God is Patient
The readings for today are about stewardship, service, and belonging.
There are not two kingdoms. There is only what belongs to God; God who created the universe, in whom all things exist, and by whom we all live and breathe.
There are not two kingdoms, as there are not two sheep-folds, and there is only one shepherd. Even the sinner, depicted here as the lost sheep, belongs to God, and not some other nameless non-existent being.
No matter where you are, no matter who you are, you are God’s beloved.
You are more precious to God than a sum of great wealth. If you have lost your way God will find you, listen for the voice of the divine, you can hear it in your own breathing, be mindful, and sensitive to tug at your heart, that is the hand of God pulling you in. Every sinner is welcome, no matter what state you are in. Your return is an occasion of joy.
God is like the farmer, and the householder, whose son returns after squandering his inheritance.
Most of us (in one way or another) are like the prodigal child; eager, self-centered, ungrateful, and pushy.
We demand things that we have not earned, and squander what does not belong to us. We lead shameful lives, either in public or in private. We are small minded and petty. We get into trouble and look back to those who have always been there for us. We look to those who love us; knowing that we can count on their love again.
God is the loving parent, and we are each of us the sinful child. Some of us have the character of the spendthrift son who squandered everything and found himself, destitute, and a stranger in a faraway place, others of us are like the stalwart child who stayed by their parent’s side doing everything that was asked; from a sense of duty and not from love.
Some of us learn from our mistakes, and come to know the meaning of love, turn around and come home.
Others of us are so hardened by pride that we cannot forgive those who do not lead lives as exemplary as ours.
God is patient, and waits for them both.
24th Sunday in Ordinary Time