SOUL FOOD for Young Adult Communities: Sept 15th 2013, Twenty Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C (St. Luke).
The Gospel today is from Luke Chapter 15, verses 1 -32 . It includes 3 parables, The Lost Coin, the Lost Sheep, the Lost Son. Find it in your missal, or in your own Bible. Or Click here for this Sunday’s Mass Readings.
These are the ‘VIP‘ stories- about the unimportant coin , the unimportant sheep, and the unimportant son! These are told in a definite context, to definite people. This context is important for understanding them, and can be found in the opening two verses (above) of Luke 15, and tells us TO WHOM the parables are told, and WHY they are told. The ‘Message’ translation captures the tension involved: ’By this time a lot of men and women of doubtful reputation were hanging around Jesus, listening intently. The Pharisees and religion scholars were not pleased, not at all pleased. They growled, “He takes in sinners and eats meals with them, treating them like old friends.” Their grumbling triggered this story.‘ The ‘holy’ people (as they thought of themselves) were growling at Jesus for mixing with ‘the wrong type’, so Jesus turned on them and challenged their attitudes with these stories.They are as fresh and relevant today as they were then. Read them for yourselves, in this context. (See a Footnote below, about what I learned from some fourteen year-old lads about these stories. Their insight moved me deeply.)
Did you ever find yourself listening to a story, and suddenly saying ‘Hey, that’s ME!’? It’s like looking at a photo and suddenly recognising yourself in it. In the same way in a story, you get to see yourself, you get an insight into yourself! Well, the ancient Romans had a saying about this: ‘Why are you making fun of it? Change the name and the story is about you.’ (I googled it and this is what came up: it sounds important in Latin! “Quid rides? Mutato nomine, de te fabula narratur.” ”Why do you laugh? Change only the name and the story’s about you.” -Horace. Show that one off to your friends!)
So, let’s try changing the names and saying ‘That’s ME!’, with today’s Gospel Parable, The Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32). You probably know it well, but there’s always a lot more to every story, each time we hear it.
There’s the son who left home, the son who stayed at home, the Father who loved them both dearly, and the fatted calf who lost his head in the middle of it all!
First, are you the Younger Son? ‘At last he came to his senses.’ Times were hard, he was hungry, he was living beside a pig-sty. Things had come to a bad pass. The money was gone on drink and loose living. He was home-sick. Maybe he would be better off at home. ‘So he left the place and went back to his father.’
Now, you’re the Da: ‘The father saw him and his stomach churned for him. He ran to the boy, clasped him in his arms and kissed him tenderly.’ Remember, you’re the Da, and you’re throwing your arms around a son covered with pig-manure! But you don’t care! You’re jumping with joy, and don’t even hear the apologies being offered by the lad. You call for a Party!
Now, you’re the fatted calf, and wondering what’s all the shouting and roaring about, and who are these guys coming towards you with a shiny axe! ‘Oh sugar!’ is all you have time to say (or words to that effect), before you meet your end.
Now you are the Older Brother, out in the field. What’s with all the music and merrymaking? That scallywag is home! No way, I’m not going in. It’s not fair! It’s simply not fair!, you say to your Dad. I’ve been at home the whole time, and very faithful. No, you can’t just throw a party for that useless article that has arrived home. You can’t welcome him like this! It’s just not fair! I’m not going in.
It’s hard to take, this universal love of our God for the strays and for the lost,- for every human being on the planet. The party goes on. But will we come in? Do we resent God for being like this?
‘God is love.’ Are we?
Fr. Seamus. firstname.lastname@example.org
Can you share this with one or two others, and digest it prayerfully together? That’s community 4u.
FOOTNOTE: What some 14 yr-old lads taught me about this: I was taking a class of 2nd year lads (aged 13/14) a few years back, and we were looking just at the opening two verses of Luke 15, about the sinners and other outcasts flocking to Jesus to listen to him. We wondered together how these ‘outcasts’ and others might have felt, in the company of this Rabbi Jesus. Some said ‘They felt embarrassed’, others ‘They felt ashamed’, and so on in that vein. Then one lad said quietly ‘They felt holy’. This stopped us all in our tracks,- it certainly stopped me. In the presence of this Jesus, for all their story, for all the mess and the stuff that they had got into or done, when they came to this Jesus, and they looked at his face, and he looked at theirs, one by one, ‘they felt holy’. They felt wanted, sacred, precious, important, welcomed, understood… you could go on and on. But that’s how they felt! And they were right. This phrase ‘they felt holy’ has stayed with me since then, and my heart delights in it whenever I remember it. With Jesus, we ARE holy, sacred… all of the above.
And, If you would like to get “The Prodigal Son, THE MOTHER’S VERSION“, click here.