SATURDAY OF THE SECOND WEEK OF LENT MARCH 14, 2020
A reading of the holy Gospel according to Luke 15:1-3, 11-32
Tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to Jesus, but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So to them Jesus addressed this parable. “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.’”
“Tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to Jesus,”
Have you ever ridden the Steel Eel? It is a roller coaster ride with a drop of 150 feet and speeds up to 65 miles per hour. It is rated “extreme” in the roller coaster world. I had the chance to ride it with my daughter a few years back. I am a big “chicken” when it comes to carnival rides so I weighed my options. It couldn’t make me dizzy with its forward path, yet its size was tremendous. I thought I would regret passing up the chance. So, I threw caution to the wind, closed my eyes during the ride, and tried to have faith that people did survive this incredible journey.
This roller coast ride had an attraction because it offered experiencing something new, exciting and spectacular, with a hint of danger. Jesus is not a carnival ride, but his presence drew and attracted all, from the church leaders to the known sinners. They must have felt the charisma only Jesus could exude. He taught like no one before them and in a very merciful way. When Jesus taught about God the Father, there was something dangerous about changing their faith into an intimate union with God.
The Pharisees and scribes, who were also sinners, rejected Jesus due to their pride and closed minds to thinking of God as a loving Father. They must have thought Jesus and the sinners to be foolish in this new way of worship.
In our sinful human nature, we all fall into the category of the Pharisees at times. Sometimes we don’t listen to others when God has sent them to us. Other times we think we already know it and practice the faith the way we see fit, so we don’t take the ride Jesus placed before us.
May we all choose to ride the gift of life by humbling ourselves and praying for the charisma of Jesus to open our hearts in receiving the Gospel. I don’t regret my seemingly foolish decision of trying the Steel Eel, but maybe someday I will ride it again with my eyes open. In the meantime, I am content with drawing closer to Jesus.