Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him.And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So he told them this parable:
Then Jesus said, “There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them. A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living.
When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything.
But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.”’ So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him.
Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.“
Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.’ Then he became angry and refused to go in.
His father came out and began to plead with him. But he answered his father, ‘Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’
Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’”
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.
Upon reading today’s Gospel, I am struck by two things: the immediate forgiveness extended by the father, and the complaining of the Pharisees. I have heard this parable many times, yet I never realized that the reading began with such complaining. In contemporary American culture, there is so much of an “us vs. them” mentality, a mentality that creates narratives that can ostracize people. The older brother had the narrative that because his younger brother wasted his share of the estate on a sinful lifestyle, he should not be welcomed back. We have similar narratives today. “We should not give to the poor, they are dirty.” In a recent interview with Scarp de Tenis, a Milan street magazine, Pope Francis was asked about whether it is right to give alms to people who ask for help on the street. How would you reply? Here’s what he said:
“There are many arguments to justify oneself when you do not give alms. ‘But what, I give money and then he spends it on a glass of wine?’ If a glass of wine is the only happiness he has in life, that is fine. Instead, ask yourself what you do secretly. What ‘happiness’ do you seek in private? Or, on the contrary to him, you are more fortunate, with a house, a wife, children, which leads you to say, ‘Take care of him yourselves’. Help is always right. Certainly, it is not a good thing just to throw a few coins at the poor. The gesture is important, helping those who ask, looking them in the eyes and touching their hands. Tossing the money without looking in the eyes, that is not the gesture of a Christian. Teaching in charity is not about offloading one’s own sense of guilt, but it is touching, looking at our inner poverty that the Lord understands and saves. Because we all have inner poverty”.
Pope Francis, like the father in the Gospel, does not follow the narratives of others. Instead, he chooses to embrace those he encounters who are on the margins.
Additionally, after the younger son has returned home and begged for forgiveness, the father figure seems to almost ignore the apology. The father’s immediate forgiveness is something I truly envy. It is something of pure love. It is easy to dwell on everything around us, including our own mistakes, but to be able to forgive or be forgiven with such ease is a lifelong challenge.
– James Pollard ‘18 and Sam Pottinger ‘18 are members of the Junior Pastoral Team at St. Louis U. High.
O God, I am so fragile;
my dreams get broken
my relationships get broken
my heart gets broken…
What can I believe
except what Jesus taught:
that only what is first broken,
can be shared;
only what is broken
is open to your entry.
So I believe, Lord;
help my unbelief
that I may have courage
to keep trying,
even when I am tired.
—Written by a student while on retreatPlease share the Good Word with your friends!