An important theme throughout Luke’s gospel is the forgiveness
of sins. God is eager to welcome back any sinner who repents and
the three parables contained in chapter 15 all center on finding
what was thought to be lost. The three episodes are well known
to us especially the parable of the prodigal son. The characters
are familiar and in many ways we easily identify with the two
brothers. There are moments in our lives when we have desired
the freedom the younger brother seeks. Each of us knows his eagerness
to be venture out on his own and the fear and desperation he encounters
from choosing the wrong path. Like the young man, we have experienced
shame and regret for our actions. We know his longing to be welcomed
back into the lives of those we have hurt or abandoned. We have
longed to be reunited with those who have loved us. However, there
are also those moments when we have wallowed in the jealousy and
anger of the older of the brother. We have watched with disdain
someone receiving the recognition we believe should be ours. We
have judged ourselves better than another. Why don’t they
acknowledge how good I am and recognize that he is such a phony.
Each of us has been the two brothers. We have wanted forgiveness
and we have refused to forgive.
Standing between these two extremes is the figure of the father.
Now we can easily resign ourselves to the fact that the father
is God. Certainly this is Luke’s intent. If the good news
is grounded on the theme of forgiveness, than the father is God.
He is the one who is always willing and eager to reconcile us
with him and with others. Each in their own way the brothers have
participated in sin and it is God who offers the invitation to
return. However, maybe this parable is calling us to reflect on
the ways we must be the father.
In the first reading, it is Moses who brokers the relationship
between God and his people. As the younger brother, the Israelites
want to satisfy their appetites for pleasure. They want to experience
the joys of freedom. Naturally, God is frustrated with their actions.
How much more can he give to them? What more evidence of his love
do they need? Why do they not appreciate what has been done for
them? Can’t they see the phoniness of the molten calf? God
offers Moses an opportunity to leave this wayward people to their
own desires and establish for him a new and greater nation of
people. Putting aside any personal gain or glory, Moses demonstrates
his devotion to God and the people. He speaks on behalf of the
people who belong to God and intercedes on their behalf. Like
the father, the shepherd and the woman in Jesus’ parables,
Moses ventures out to bring back what has been lost. It is more
than just seeking or offering forgiveness. Moses and the brother’s
father do not merely stand and wait for something to happen. They
make it happen. In each case there is an active participation
to reunite. To become an agent of forgiveness, we must be willing
to sweep the house, search the field and move down the road to
recover what has been lost. In our celebration of the Eucharist
we move forward to unite ourselves with Christ. We share in his
life and in his power to embrace the sinner and eliminate the
tensions that divide us. Yes, we know the prodigal son and the
stubborn son. We have lived in the shadow of the brothers; can
we live in spirit of the father?