SOUL FOOD for Hungry Adult Communities: Sept.15th 2013, Twenty Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C,- ‘The Year of Luke’.
Gospel: Luke 15:1-32. Click here for Mass Readings for this Sunday.
LUKE CHAPTER 15:1,2: ”Now the tax collectors and sinners were flocking to Jesus, to listen to him. 2 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
‘Every story contains thirty layers, and a rabbi can only show you one layer.’
And here this Sunday we have three well-known stories. We may think we ‘know’ these parables well, but there are many layers to each, and much that this Word of God can open up in us.
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.
There’s a universal agenda, all through St. Luke’s Gospel. The Good News of the loving closeness and immense activity of God is meant, not just for our Jewish brothers and sisters, but ALSO for the whole wide world! And that was really tough, for those who saw themselves exclusively as God’s Chosen People. They were IN, and all others were OUT.
But God loved the World! -and every nation and every tribe and people. God still does, and there’s the challenge for us,- to bring to the world we live in today an immense sense of the dignity of each and every human being, as if Each One is the Only One before his or her Maker.
If there is even ONE that has not heard, even ONE that feels outside, then the Creator/Father/God seeks that ONE person out. And so must we! No one is OUT, because everyone is IN.
The coin may not seem important, but the woman thinks it is.
The one sheep may not seem important, but the Shepherd thinks it is.
The parable of ‘The Prodigal Son’, -or the parable of the Grumpy Elder Brother, the Returning Younger Brother, and the Father who is ‘prodigal’ with his welcome and love,- has a universal meaning. In Jesus’ time, and in the early decades of the Church, it can be seen , at one level, as a parable for the People of Israel, faithful to God for centuries, who are angry at the welcome for all the Gentiles who they considered far from God. This Rabbi Jesus speaks to them of the universal love of God, and the party thrown for the return of all the peoples of the world to the one party table of God. And they resented this universal love.
And we resent it too. We close our hearts and borders to many races or colours or creeds, or ethnic minorities. We look down our sacred noses on many people and on many God-given things.
Instead, we could this day put rings on the fingers of every human, put new sandals of welcome on their feet, and bring them in to the music and dance and food and celebration, the wild joy that is found in the universal heart of God.
Or, we could stay outside and sulk.
His Parable. Our choice.
Footnote about the First Reading (Exodus 327-11, 13-14): read it slowly and notice the humour in it. God gives out to Moses about ‘your’ people being unfaithful and making a golden calf to worship. God is painted as being upset and angry, and going to break up with them.
Moses gently chides God, and speaks to God about ‘your people’,- it was You who brought them out, they are Yours! And God relents.
Moses was always with his people for God, and then, in prayer, with God for his people. We can all learn from him.
And Paul, in his letter to his friend Timothy,(Second Reading, First Timothy 1:12-17)) tells us that if God can have mercy on him, Paul, who had been so filled with hatred earlier, then God can have mercy on anyone in the whole world! God is obviously ‘prodigal’ or wild or full of abandonment with his love for people.
Click here for ‘The Prodigal Son, the Mother’s Version‘.