Readings for September 15, 2019
Exodus 32:7-11, 13-14
1 Timothy 1:12-17
The parable of the Prodigal Son begins with, “A man had two sons.” This is not only a great line to start a story, but also a pointed foretelling of one of the story’s lessons.
The first son, the “prodigal,” of course, is shown great mercy and love by the father. But as a result the second son, the “obedient” son, becomes jealous. “‘Look, all these years I served you and not once did I disobey your orders; yet you never gave me even a young goat to feast on with my friends. But when your son returns, who swallowed up your property with prostitutes, for him you slaughter the fattened calf.’”
The Pharisees behave similarly when earlier in the reading they complain of Jesus, “He welcomes and dines with sinners.” But when they say this, the Pharisees, like the “obedient” son, are blind to God’s love and deny their own sinfulness, setting themselves apart as non-sinners, which is, of course, not true of any of us.
The fact is, both sons in the parable received the same abundant love from their father, just as all sinners received the same love and invitation to dine with Jesus. But as the “obedient” son demonstrates, sometimes it can be difficult to recognize the love that has been given to us–especially when we are too busy focusing on the love and the blessings that have been given to others. And in our jealous hearts, it is difficult to see love poured out for someone else without wanting that love for ourselves, believing we have done more to earn that love. Meanwhile, we fail to recognize that the very love that we covet is already present in our own lives.
But it is.
So the next time I sense my own jealousy over someone else’s happiness, and the blessings being bestowed upon them by Our Father, I must ask myself “can’t a Father have two sons? And can’t he love both of them?” If today I see God’s love being poured out to someone else, instead of sulking in my pettiness and forgetting that God has always and will always love me just as much, shouldn’t I, instead, join the party in celebration of the good things bestowed upon my brother or my neighbor? My response to God’s amazing love needs to be to love in return. How much better is a celebration of love than is a pity party?
“He welcomes and dines with sinners.” As a sinner, I say thank you Jesus! Thank you for the love and acceptance, and thank you for your mercy and patience as I work to set aside my own jealousy and remember to join in the celebration. For when Christ is Lord of Heaven and Earth, how can I keep from singing?
My Lord Jesus Christ, your mercy knows no bounds and I am forever grateful for your love. In welcoming sinners to your table you are welcoming me. Help me to understand and seek your love and mercy in all I see and do. I ask this in your name, who lives and reigns with God our Father, in unity with the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen