'This brother of yours was dead and has come to life.' Sunday Reflections, 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C


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

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

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

Gospel Luke 15:1-32 [or 15:1-10] (New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Catholic Edition, Canada)  

Now all the tax-collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, ‘This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.’
So he told them this parable: ‘Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and 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 people who need no repentance.
‘Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? 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 in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.’
[Then Jesus said, ‘There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, “Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.” So he divided his property between them. A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and travelled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout 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 to his fields to feed the pigs. He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself he said, “How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! I will get up 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 like one of your hired hands.’” So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. Then 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 slaves, “Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!” And they began to celebrate.
‘Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. He replied, “Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.” Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. But he answered his father, “Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!” Then the father said to him, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.”’]


Luke 15:1-10 in Filipino Sign Language


Luke 15:1-3, 11-32 in Filipino Sign Language


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

This week I'm going to borrow from others. The late Fr Paul Andrews SJ was a regular contributor to TheSacred 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. 

The 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.
The 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?

Christ on the Cross, Rembrandt [Web Gallery of Art]


My other 'guest' this week is the late Swiss theologian Fr Hans Urs von Balthasar (1905 - 1988). Here is part of his reflection on the Sunday readings from his book Light of the Wordpublished by Ignatius Press, San Francisco, USA.


In the third parable the father does not wait at home for the lost son, rather, he hurries to meet him and throws his arms around his neck. God's search for the lost does not mean that he does not know where the lost one is. Instead, it tells us that he searches to find which paths will be effective, which paths will permit the sinner to find his way back. This is God's 'exertion', which expresses itself in the culminating risk of giving his Son for the lost world. If the Son descends into the most profound abandonment of sin, to the point of losing the Father, then this is God exerting himself to the uttermost in his search for the lost. 'when we were still sinners, God had mercy on us through the sacrifice of his Son' (Romans 5:8).

The Descent from the Cross, Rembrandt [Web Gallery of Art]

Plaque of St Mother Teresa of Kolkata
Olomouc, Czech Republic [Wikipedia]

Mother Teresa, in all aspects of her life, was a generous dispenser of divine mercy, making herself available for everyone through her welcome and defence of human life, those unborn and those abandoned and discarded. She was committed to defending life, ceaselessly proclaiming that 'the unborn are the weakest, the smallest, the most vulnerable'. She bowed down before those who were spent, left to die on the side of the road, seeing in them their God-given dignity; she made her voice heard before the powers of this world, so that they might recognize their guilt for the crime – the crimes! – of poverty they created. For Mother Teresa, mercy was the 'salt' which gave flavour to her work, it was the 'light' which shone in the darkness of the many who no longer had tears to shed for their poverty and suffering. [Pope Francis, homily at canonisation of St Mother Teresa of Kolkata, 4 September 2016].

Misa Criolla, Kyrie

Señor ten piedad de nosotros. Lord, have mercy on us.
Cristo ten piedad de nosotros. Christ, have mercy on us.
Señor ten piedad de nosotros. Lord, have mercy on us.

A setting in Spanish of the Kyrie eleison (Lord, have mercy) from Misa Criolla by Argentinian composer Ariel Ramírez (1921 - 2010).

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