Scripture Reflections – Sunday, September 15th, 2013

 Ex 32:7-11, 13-14;  1Tim 1:12-32;  Lk 15:1-32
(Good to be back! )
This week’s gospel contains my favorite parable in all of scripture.  In fact,  if we lost all of the rest of the Bible except for the parable of the prodigal son, I think we would still retain the gist of the whole library.  Nowhere else in the scriptures do you find such a succinct proclamation of the transforming power of repentance and forgiveness in the Christian universe.  Nowhere else in the scriptures are we left with such a troubling account of the implications.
No question that the younger son has made a mess of things.  From the point of view of our everyday morality, he gets what he deserves.   Broke, starving, surrounded by pigs – the most unclean animal his Jewish mind could conceive.  “Good for him”, we might be tempted to say. “That’ll teach him to turn his back on his father.”
But this is no earthly father – it is God him/herself who comes running out to greet the wayward son when he finally realizes his mistakes and tries another way. (The textbook definition of repentance.)   All is forgiven.  All is restored.   In fact, symbolized by the slaughtering of the fattened calf and the outrageous party, things seem even better than they were before.  it is the miracle of repentence and forgiveness – the conversion of heart and the healing of relationship.   No sin can ever be larger than God’s mercy.  No pigpen so dark and isolated that the Holy Spirit can’t find you there.
If only Jesus would’ve left it at that!
The last scene, however, does not take place at a party.  No singing or dancing or joyful celebration in the steadily darkening field where the older son stands, outraged at the injustice he is seeing unfold before his eyes.   With fists clenched and cheeks reddened he (we?) screams at his father and into the heavens – “All these years I slaved for you and you never……..! (While it likely won’t be a goat we’ve been deprived of, each of us will no doubt fill in the blank with That WhIch
We Felt We Were Entitlted But Never Received).   He can’t see the miracle.   He can’t experience the love.  All that his small, cramped self-righteous ego will allow him to see is the injustice.
And so the story ends.   The father has made his urgent appeal of love.  Will the older son ever be able to receive it? 
Can we?
Jim Philipps (3rd millennium pilgrim)
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