Fourth Sunday of Lent 2007
Jos 5:9a, 10-12
2 Cor 5:17-21
Lk 15:1-3, 11-32
Well here he goes again! Jesus has the audacity to sit and eat with "those people"! How dare Jesus place himself at table with people who, you know, SIN. The Pharisees and the scribes are in a tizzy over this. Surely if Jesus was sent by God, he would only want to talk to them since they were so holy and most importantly of all, worthy of God's love. One can almost imagine Jesus letting out a soft sigh as the Pharisees and scribes get all self righteous.
Jesus in turn gives them a parable and it is one we are all very familiar with. The Prodigal Son has been immortalized not only in Scripture but also paintings, music, and sculpture. We may immediately turn our thoughts to images of the young son's father holding him and weeping from joy at his son's return. But what about the elder son? We will get to him in a moment.
Being a disciple of Jesus means that we have encountered Jesus' three R's; redemption, reconciliation, and restoration. All of us have been in the place of the younger son. All of us have at one time or another turned our back on God and have been unfaithful, we've sinned. Eventually we come to our senses and we turn back to God and we experience God's redemption. Nothing we do can earn redemption. It is given freely, fully, and with overflowing love. God races to embrace us!
We experience reconciliation with God and one another. Our relationship with God is broken by our sin. Turning back to God, asking for forgiveness repairs that relationship. But our sin effects our relationships with one another, the Body of Christ. God's forgiveness repairs that relationship as well. We are united as Jesus' body on earth. We are all brothers and sisters no matter what we may want to think.
Restoration. When we turn away from God we walk away from our share in God's joy. We become poor and destitute in spirit and our soul starves. God embraces us, forgives our sins and we are retsored to the dignity of God's children.
Now the elder son. We sometimes fill the role of the elder son. How dare "those people" be given the same share as us! We begin to feel superior in our faith, self righteous, and we think that we deserve more than someone who has lived a life of riot only to turn to God and be embraced, forgiven, and given an equal share of God's riches. To fall into this trap is to forfeit the joy of the blessing of being rich in our communion with God and one another. Self righteousness weakens our relationship with God and one another. Self righteousness isolates us, weakens us, and worst of all, disappoints God.
Too often, we become so filled with self that we lose sight of God's desire for us to live for Him and proclaim his salvation to everyone. When self righteousness fills our hearts we forget that we too have been the disobedient child, the one who rejected God's love and squandered God's heavenly gifts. How can we reject someone who is just like we are? We have all fallen short of God's glory but all of us are worthy of God's love. That's why God loves us! God loves us because He made us worthy of His love by giving us the breath of life! Let us embrace that fact. Let us embrace God and our neighbor. To love God is to love neighbor and to love our neighbor is to love God.
Let us accept God's invitation to redemption, reconciliation, and restoration. When we do that, we can all sit at God's table and join together to feast and live! May God soften our hearts to see the glory of God in all His children.