September 15, 2019 at Saint Peter and Saint Elizabeth Seton Parishes in Naples, FL
Exodus 32, 7-11, 13-14 + Psalm 51 + 1 Timothy 1, 12-17 + Luke 15, 1-32
Three parables about parties. I love it! And, who doesn’t love a party except someone who doesn’t like the people invited, and that’s the trouble with this third party. There is someone who will not go in because he doesn’t like someone who was invited. He stands outside pouting and grumbling, complaining about the cost of the party, actually insulting the host who is his father. He never calls him “father.” He just says: “you” with insolence and bitterness. After listening to him, you almost have to be glad he didn’t go. He would have ruined the party anyway.
Then you have to wonder, what is he mad about? Before it all starts, we are told that the father divided his property between them. He already had his share. What is he so mad about anyway? My own guess is that he was just jealous because he didn’t choose the freedom to run around and have a good time. He decided to stay home and look good in the eyes of everyone else. So, now when he sees how it all ends, he’s really mad at himself for staying home and being the nice boy. But, he’s not so nice after all. He’s jealous, he’s angry, he’s rude, and resentful in the face of mercy and love. How can that be, you have to ask when he hears that man say, “My boy. You are always with me. Everything I have is yours”?
Those words come from a man who has left the party and all his guests to come outside once more and gather up a lost one. When I stand back and listen to this parable and the two before it, I suddenly get it when it comes to the Incarnation. It is suddenly clear to me that Jesus has left the Father and the glory of heaven to come down in the flesh and listen to our whining, our resentments, our excuses, and say one more time: “Everything I have is yours.” Everything Jesus has is ours!
The fifteenth chapter of Luke’s Gospel is the most simple and clear revelation of who God is, of what God is doing, and what Divine mercy looks like in human flesh. There is a party going on, and it’s a family gathering. Why in the world would any one of us stay outside resentful or bitter over who gets to come and why we are celebrating? The Inheritance that is ours has already been given. It clearly isn’t just the perfect among us who get to party. If you’ve messed up your livfe and waisted your inheritance, all you have to do is repent, change, turn around and head home. It clearly is not a matter of how much you’ve done, how hard you’ve worked, and what you have sacrificed. All that really matters at the end is that we celebrate, that we are joyful, not just because some folks found their way home, but because God never changed the locks while they were gone and even if we’re late because we’ve busy working, someone is waiting for us to get over it, and get inside.