Saturday, March 18, 2017
1) Opening prayer
Faithful Father, you are our God
of grace, mercy and forgiveness.
When mercy and pardon
sound paternalistic to modern ears,make us realize, Lord,
that you challenge us to face ourselves
and to become new people,
responsible for the destiny of ourselves
and for the happiness of others.
Make us responsive to your love
through Christ Jesus our Lord.
2) Gospel Reading - Luke 15, 1-3. 11-32
The tax collectors and sinners, however, were all crowding round to listen to him, and the Pharisees and scribes complained saying, 'This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.' So he told them this parable:
'There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, "Father, let me have the share of the estate that will 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 himself with the husks the pigs were eating but no one would let him have them. Then he came to his senses and said, "How many of my father's hired men have all the food they want and more, 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 hired men." 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. 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 will celebrate by having a feast, 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. The servant told him, "Your brother has come, and your father has killed the calf we had been fattening because he has got him back safe and sound." He was angry then and refused to go in, and his father came out and began to urge him to come in; but he retorted to his father, "All these years I have slaved for you and never once disobeyed any orders of yours, 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 loose 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." '
• Chapter 15 of Luke’s Gospel is enclosed in the following information: “The tax collectors and sinners, were all crowding round to listen to him, and the Pharisees and Scribes complained saying: This man welcomes sinners and eats with them” (Lk 15, 1-3). Immediately Luke presents these three parables which are bound together by the same theme: the lost sheep (Lk 15, 4-7), the lost drachma (Lk 15, 8-10), the lost son (Lk 15, 11-32). This last parable constitutes the theme of today’s Gospel.
• Luke 15, 11-13: The decision of the younger son. A man had two sons. The younger one asks for the part of the estate which will be his. The father divides everything between the two and both receive their part. To receive the inheritance is not any merit of ours. It is a gratuitous gift. The inheritance of the gifts of God is distributed among all human beings, whether Jewish or Pagans, whether Christians or non Christians . All receive something of the inheritance of the Father. But not all take care of it in the same way. In this same way, the younger son leaves and goes to a distant country and squandered his money on a life of debauchery, getting away from the Father. At the time of Luke, the elder one represented the communities which came from Judaism, and the youngest represented, the communities from Paganism. And today who is the youngest and who the less young?
• Luke 15, 14-19: The disillusionment and the will to return to the Father’s home. The need to find some food makes the young man lose his freedom and he becomes a slave and takes care of the pigs. This was the condition of life of millions of slaves in the Roman Empire at the time of Luke. The situation in which he finds himself makes the young man remember how he was in his Father’s home. Finally, he prepares the words which he will say to his Father: “I no longer deserve to be called your son! Treat me as one of your hired men!” The hired man executes the orders, fulfils the law of servants. The younger son wants to fulfil the law as the Pharisees and the Scribes of the time of Jesus wanted (Lk 15, 1). The missionaries of the Pharisees accused the Pagans who were converted to the God of Abraham (Mt 23, 15). At the time of Luke, some Christians who came from Judaism, submitted themselves to the yoke of the Law (Ga 1, 6-10).
• Luke 15, 20-24: The joy of the Father when he meets his younger son again. The parable says that the younger son was still a long way off from the house, but the Father sees him, and runs to the boy, clasps him in his arms and kissed him. The impression given by Jesus is that the Father remained all the time at the window to see if his son would appear around the corner. According to our human way of thinking and feeling, the joy of the Father seems exaggerated. He does not even allow his son to finish his words, what he was saying. Nobody listens! The Father does not want his son to be his slave. He wants him to be his son! This is the great Good News which Jesus has brought to us! A new robe, new sandals, a ring on his finger, the calf, the feast! In the immense joy of the encounter, Jesus allows us to see how great the sadness of the Father is because of the loss of his son. God was very sad and the people now become aware of this, seeing the immense joy of the Father because of the encounter with his son! It is joy shared with all in the feast that he has prepared.
• Luke 15, 25-28b: The reaction of the older son. The older son returns from his work in the fields and finds that there is a feast in the house. He refuses to enter. He wants to know what is happening. When he is told the reason for the feast, he is very angry and does not want to go in. Closing up in himself, he thinks he has his own right. He does not like the feast and he does not understand the why of his Father’s joy. This is a sign that he did not have a great intimacy with the Father, in spite of the fact that they lived in the same House. In fact, if he would have had it, he would have remarked the sadness of the Father for the loss of his younger son and would have understood his joy when his son returned. Those who live very worried about the observance of the Law of God, run the risk of forgetting God himself! The young son, even being far away from home, seemed to know the Father better than the older son who lived with him. Because the younger one had the courage to go back home to his Father, while the older one no longer wants to enter the house of the Father. He is not aware that the Father without him, will lose his joy. Because he, the older son, is also son as much as the younger one!
• Luke 15, 28a-30: The attitude of the Father and the response of the older son. The Father goes out of the house, and begs the older son to enter into the house. But he answers: “All these years I have slaved for you and never once disobeyed any orders of yours, 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 loose women, you kill the calf we had been fattening”. The older son also wants feast and joy, but only with his own friends. Not with his brother and much less with his Father, and he does not even call brother his own brother, but rather “this your son”, as if he were no longer his brother. And he, the older brother, speaks about prostitutes. It is his malice which makes him interpret the life of his younger brother in this way. How many times the older brother interprets badly the life of the younger brother. How many times, we Catholics interpret badly the life and the religion of others! The attitude of the Father is the contrary! He accepts the younger son, but does not want to lose the older son. Both of them form part of the family. One cannot exclude the other!
• Luke 15, 31-32: The final response of the Father. In the same way, like the Father who does not pay attention to the arguments of the younger son, in the same way he does not pay attention to those of the older son and he says: “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!” Is it that the older son was really aware that he was always with his Father and to find in his presence the reason for his joy? The expression of the Father: “All I have is yours!” includes also the younger son who has returned! The older brother does not have the right to make a distinction, and if he wants to be the son of the Father, he has to accept him as he is and not as he would like the Father to be! The parable does not say which was the final response of the older brother. It is up to the older son, whom we are, to give it!
• The one who experiences the gratuitous and surprising irruption of the love of God in his life becomes joyful and wishes to communicate this joy to others. The salvation action of God is a source of joy: “Rejoice with me!” (Lk 15, 6.9). And from this experience of God’s gratuitousness emerges the sense of feast and joy (Lk 15, 32). At the end of the parable, the Father asks to be happy and to celebrate, to feast. The joy is threatened by the older son, who does not want to enter. He thinks he has the right to joy only with his own friends and does not want to share the joy with all the members of the same human family. He represents those who consider themselves just and observant, and who think that they do not need any conversion.
4) Personal questions
• Which is the image of God that I have since my childhood? Has it changed during these past years? If it has changed, why?
• With which of the two sons do I identify myself: with the younger one or with the older one? Why?
5) Concluding Prayer
Bless Yahweh, my soul,
from the depths of my being, his holy name;
bless Yahweh, my soul,
never forget all his acts of kindness. (Ps 103,1-2)