Lectionary: 132 EXODUS 32:7-11, 13-14 LUKE 15
Reading 1 excerpt Ex 32:7-11, 13-14
The LORD said to Moses,”Go down at once to your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt, for they have become depraved. They have soon turned aside from the way I pointed out to them…
Gospel of Luke excerpt Luke 15
Tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to Jesus, but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain (about Jesus), so Jesus replied: ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’
I tell you, in just the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.
Then he said, “A man had two sons, and the younger son said to his father,
‘Father give me the share of your estate that should come to me.’
So the father divided the property between them.
After a few days, the younger son collected all his belongings and set off to a distant country
where he squandered his inheritance on a life of dissipation. When he had freely spent everything,
a severe famine struck that country, and he found himself in dire need. So he hired himself out to one of the local citizens who sent him to his farm to tend the swine.
And he longed to eat his fill of the pods on which the swine fed, but nobody gave him any.
Coming to his senses he thought,‘How many of my father’s hired workers have more than enough food to eat,but here am I, dying from hunger. I shall get up and go to my father and I shall say to him,
“Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son;
treat me as you would treat one of your hired workers.”’So he got up and went back to his father.
While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion.
He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him. His son said to him,‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you;I no longer deserve to be called your son.’
But his father ordered his servants,‘Quickly bring the finest robe and put it on him;
put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Take the fattened calf and slaughter it.
Then let us celebrate with a feast,because this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again;
he was lost, and has been found.’Then the celebration began.
Now the older son had been out in the field and, on his way back, as he neared the house,he heard the sound of music and dancing. He called one of the servants and asked what this might mean. The servant said to him,‘Your brother has returned and your father has slaughtered the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ He became angry, and when he refused to enter the house, his father came out and pleaded with him. He said to his father in reply,‘Look, all these years I served you and not once did I disobey your orders; yet you never gave me even a young goat to feast on with my friends. But when your son returns,who swallowed up your property with prostitutes, for him you slaughter the fattened calf.’ He said to him,‘My son, you are here with me always; everything I have is yours.
But now we must celebrate and rejoice, because your brother was dead and has come to life again;
he was lost and has been found.’”
In the famous Prodigal Son story, there are many background things that stand out to me. I’ll mention one of them today. Let’s single out the strong griping comment made of the stay-at-home son, the eldest—who is blasting away at his dad, saying: ‘You never threw me a dinner, like of this fatted calf feast, only but for now for that lost and no-good son of yours who’s returned, while you thus disregard all my slaving work under you for years —and the fact that that second son of yours doesn’t deserved a thing!’
‘Never got a feast. ‘Never got that dinner.
I remember an old comedian called Red Buttons, and he had a routine about all the deserving folks in history that got passed over, and “never got a dinner.” Here is something similar to his routine: Wynken, Blynken and Nod—those three courageous sea adventurers—who sailed off upon a wooden shoe. What difficulty! What maritime expertise! They sailed the Atlantic all the way to Bermuda’s crystal sea of dew, never to be credited among the world’s greatest navigators—AND worst yet—they never got a dinner!
Another sea voyager, Amerigo Vespucci, among finding out they were naming our country after him, was thinking it could be AmerigoLand or else the United States of Vespucci. Yet he never got consulted. They named us after a mispronunciation of his name Amerigo to America. The United States of America. Shame. And Amerigo never got a dinner!
One of the first men appointed to serve for the founding father’s cabinet, yes, under George Washington, Patriot and Lawyer Michael Mahogany, was mis-assigned to be put in care of Washington’s kitchen cabinets at his Mt. Vernon house, and was never called to the president to advise him as a proper, political, first cabinet member. It was one of our government’s first foul ups. Worse yet—for all his good cabinet polishing at George’s house, Michael Mahogany, cabinet minister, lawyer—never got a dinner!
You get the idea. Maybe you remember Red Button’s odd humor. Now, back to the parable… but keep in mind that “never got a dinner” thing.
For years on years this home son has been complaining, griping, demanding, sulking, and dishonoring his dad, and the like. This was not a new thing, it did not come just up over the long lost prodigal’s return; the first son likely has been self-centered, spoiled to himself, and caught up in his rights for a long time—and you could even wonder that the other son left, for partial reason—to get away from being stuck life-long around this grouch of a brother. ‘Just a different angle, ‘eh?
But both sons clearly do not understand the great father that they have or the great blessings they enjoy with being with him on his land. It’s the parable lesson.
So the younger, straying son of restlessness and wanderlust, has come back as a major wreck, pleading for a place with the father and on the land—if even, as most could be expected, to be allotted a worker’s job on the lowest level, out of past family association—the prodigal son just had hoped to have a roof over him and his mouth to feed again. Nothing more. It would have been kind enough.
But you know the turn of the story, the gracious Father is so pleased to have his son back. He expresses the boy as “back from the dead,” and he throws a welcome back party dinner with the fatted calf feast. The griping eldest son, normally aloof from his father, has found that the father has come out to him, to call him into the house and celebration. But he says to father, “He gets a dinner?! For that lost and no-good son of yours who’s returned, while you thus disregard all my slaving work under you for years —and isn’t it a plain fact that this prodigal second son of yours doesn’t deserve a thing!?!” It is quite telling that the eldest son has a problem going on in himself, and his self-righteous behavior is distancing him from a very good, good father and now a family celebration. The eldest is divided, by his own doing. This situation puts a revealing light upon him.
When I think of our own America and some of our people in it—we have many who quickly gripe and complain, demand for their ‘higher’ rights, and meanwhile look down on their brother—and when I see out there those who care not for faith or family or respectful living—even dissing their father or mother or foster-parents good care—it saddens me to realize that situation. All their energy gone inward, when the good Lord has told us that wise and right living is outward of loving, and of finding humble giving to share—that’s where energies should go. When I think of love of country, I think it is weak in the USA, and people are in it who are not thankful or appreciative or humble before God in recognition for His blessings bestowed here. It’s taken for granted, and even as “deserved”—which is proud and assumptive. Even the phrase “God bless America” has started to become a demand—God, you better bless us! I think the song maybe can be changed to “America, bless God, in the land that He gave, stand beside your neighbor, and be guided, in the night with a Light from above” ☺ America, bless God, in this home sweet home. That’s the right perspective to be recovered in our land, in our hearts. This parable brings it home. The parable has modern implications to our behavior in this country, especially as to whether we are under (or really acting not under) God. The eldest son is self-righteous in this parable, and its lesson is to say “don’t be like him.” At least the younger son is repentant and seeking love from his father… which is not evident in the eldest one. It’s a modern appraisal of two person types, but both of them need to learn more of how great their Father is, as we need insight on how great our Heavenly Father is!
The parable teaches that while that prodigal did not deserve a thing, yes— neither did that eldest brother, really. All the years of working, or as he says slaving, means that the eldest one was resentful, mad, demanding. He was mumbling and grumbling, and his rancor was so unpleasant, that I’m sure the good father could have been long tired of that attitude of ingratitude, of so much lack of appreciation from him, and with all the excuses and pushiness and conditional behavior of his first boy—who wanted all to go his way. That “Me-first” insistence does not inherit the kingdom of God. For it is not a life of love.
1st Corinthians 13 says love is patient, love is kind, and then it says in verses 4 and 5 that “love does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, nor insist on its own way of self. It is not easily angered. “ That is the truth of it.
Looking at the parable at the glaring faults of the eldest brother—who thought himself the much better man—gives us pause. Sure, his brother really messed up royally. Big time! But the eldest son has big lessons to learn, and to learn fast. I think America’s ‘proud’ people need also to learn fast and take a strong turn to God, let’s they ultimately never get a dinner with God in Heaven’s Feast..
As well as the Kingdom of God being a gift for our respect and appreciation, so is life as a Catholic presently in the USA, in this land, as a citizen of the country. On Sept. 11th, I think of this song.
Also, in our Masses today, we shall do the September Song for the 9-11 memorial, the one written by David Kanter. It is a song to take in today.