09 September 2022

‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.' Sunday Reflections, 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C


Return of the Prodigal Son
Rembrandt [Web Gallery of Art]

Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa)

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA) 

Gospel Luke 15:1-32 [Shorter form 15:1-10](English Standard Version Anglicised: India).

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear Jesus. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

So he told them this parable: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbours, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

“Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbours, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

[And Jesus said, “There was a man who had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in 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 into his fields to feed pigs. And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.

“But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father's hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise 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 as one of your hired servants.”’ And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And 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 servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.

“Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’”]

Léachtaí i nGaeilge 

Return of the Prodigal Son (detail)
Rembrandt [Web Gallery of Art]

I used most of the material below three years ago when I 'invited' some 'special guests' to share their thoughts on this wonderful parable, surely one of the most moving and powerful stories in the whole of literature, apart from the fact that it is the word of God, given to us by Jesus himself, the Word made flesh. However, on this occasion I'll invite only one 'guest'.

The late Fr Paul Andrews SJ was a regular contributor to The Sacred Heart Messenger, a monthly publication of the Irish Jesuits. The general title of his column was One Page Wisdom and the specific title of his column in the September 2016 issue is Messy Families. I'm quoting it in full.
We know about families. We have all survived them, more or less. You remember the Gospel parable about the father of the prodigal son - and here Jesus is talking about God. The boy made a fool of him by squandering the family fortune and reputation. His older son was so envious of the kid brother that he would not attend the homecoming party. 
God knows about troubled families. They are nothing out of the ordinary. In that lovely parable, the father enjoys the being of his son even when he is in every way a thorn in the father's heart. Scanning the horizon from his window he sees a forlorn, debauched figure slouching towards home, and runs out to meet him, speechless with joy. 

Return of the Prodigal Son (detail)
Rembrandt [Web Gallery of Art]
We may dream of an ideal family with lively, intelligent, obedient children - who line up with their parents for Church on Sunday, pass their exams, compete in community sports, and visit their granny. 
Move away from such rosy pictures. There is no such thing as perfect parents, or perfect children. God is not the presenter of prizes at a high-powered graduation, but the one who helps us clean up the mess or live with it, and then approach the future as a friend, without a wardrobe (closet) of excuses.

Return of the Prodigal Son (detail)
Rembrandt [Web Gallery of Art]

Fr Andrews writes: His older son was so envious of the kid brother that he would not attend the homecoming party. I would not totally agree with him on that. Part of the genius of this parable is that it's open-ended. We don't know if the older son reflected on the matter and decided to join the celebration. Maybe he did, maybe he didn't. But the story that Jesus told invites each of us to ask ourselves a number of questions. In what way do I resemble the father? Which of the two sons am I more like? If there's more of the older brother in me do I rejoice when my younger brother comes home? Do I thank God for his daily blessings? If there's more of the younger brother in me do I trust in God's mercy and decide to come home?

Kyrie, Missa Papae Marcelli
Music composed by Palestrina 
Sung by Oxford Camerata and Oxford Schola Cantorum 
Conducted by Jeremy Summerly

Kyrie eleison - Christe eleison - Kyrie eleison
Lord, have mercy - Christ, have mercy - Lord, have mercy

The Kyrie is the only part of the Mass of the Roman or Latin Rite, to which most Catholics belong, that is in Greek.

Traditional Latin Mass

Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost

The Complete Mass in Latin and English is here. (Adjust the date at the top of that page to 9-11-2022 if necessary).

Epistle: Galatians 5:16-24Gospel: Matthew 6:24-33.

Wheat Field with a Lark
Vincent van Gogh [Web Gallery of Art]

Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? (Matthew 6:29).

1 comment:

Mariette VandenMunckhof-Vedder said...

Dearest Father Seán,
Yes, Rembrandt tried his very best for visualizing the prodigal son.
Mixed emotions that show even more about forgiveness than love.
As for the birds in the fields, true they don't sow but when observing them closely they do labor hard for their young and in building a nest first; then feeding them!