Eating With Sinners

I wonder if the father of the two sons in the parable was dying for an excuse to have a party. The parable, like Jesus’ other parables, should be interpreted as a symbol and metaphor of the kingdom of God. Jesus frequently used images of kings, vineyard owners or wedding parties, some of them borrowed from the Old Testament, to convey a sense of what he and his mission were about. In this, Jesus’ best loved parable, the father is an image of God and his two sons represent God’s people – us. The younger son seems to be an image of big time spenders and sinners, while the older brother lived in humourless loyalty to his father.
A day arrived when the younger boy claimed his share of the inheritance and took off for a life of excitement in faraway places. We can only guess at the cheerless existence back home between the father and his dour elder son. Meantime, the younger one lived high on the hog until his luck and his money ran out and he decided to return home head bowed and empty handed. This was the break the father needed and had been waiting for. His joy and excitement knew no bounds as he threw a party to beat all parties. Rings went on fingers, shoes on feet and the finest robe ever to be seen went on young shoulders.
I suggest that’s what God is like: exuberant joy of life and sheer love. The parable is a call to repent – repent in the sense of seeing with a new pair of eyes – and to see life from the divine perspective. Have that mind in you which was in Christ Jesus… The importance of Christ is that he shows and models for us how to be Godlike in our thinking, feeling and actions. That is the goal of our Lenten journey of repentance and conversion. The medieval mystic Julian of Norwich gave us this picture of God: “Sitting in heaven, smiling, completely relaxed, his face looking like a marvellous symphony.”
The parable of the “prodigal son” offers us more than a moral lesson: swallow your pride and forgive those who have offended you. Yes, undoubtedly that lesson is there for sure. But there’s a deeper current that invites us to experience something of who God is: the ‘joi de vivre’ or the exuberant joy of being alive, a sense of the “glory” that brought disciples to faith at the wedding of Cana, and a sense of the glory that enveloped the Last Supper after Judas left – John 13:11 ff. The supper was a cheerful event; we are told in Matthew’s Gospel (26:30) that they all ended up singing.
Fr. QQ – 03/23/2022

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