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The Love of the Prodigal Father

Rev. Paul V. Redmond
Professor Emeritus
Mount St. Mary's University

(9-12-10) Friends all, listen with your heart as you and I reflect on this most beautiful of the parables or stories that Rabbi Jesus taught us: the parable of the younger son who returned to his father, the older son who may or may not have returned to his father and his brother, and the prodigal father, extravagant in his love, who reached out to both sons who were lost.

In looking back through the arches of the years I well appreciate the younger son who marched off to the wild beat of his own drum. In claiming his share of the inheritance he was effectively saying: "Dad, drop dead." Perhaps several of us related to him on his journey of "dropping out", a journey when he was lost to himself and his return journey back home as he struggled to discover his "true self". Sometimes we realize from our own experience it is only in brokenness that a person allows herself or himself to be forgiven---to be loved, to be led back to the joy of the Father, and to accept the wild mercy of Godís love.

I donít feel too sorry for the older sonóin fact, I rather dislike him. . he seemed to resemble a "pious prig" type who didnít allow himself to have any fun in life. He was probably praised by the neighbors as a good match and a hard worker. We can imagine his saying to himself: "Man, one fine day this farm will be mine. I sure hope that creep of a brother doesnít come back home again and somehow try to double-dip into the inheritance." Have you and I not experienced resentment in some shape at times?

All of usóno matter the great good that we have done for othersóat some time experience resentment in our hearts. An intimate friend with whom you and I can talk things over---can assist us in lessening the hold that resentment has on us. What is really rough at times is the resentment that dresses itself up as holiness. Itís rough when you struggle to deal with a personóa lay person, priest or religious who has made resentment a home in her or his heart. ---the person who sees her coworkers at getting all the breaks, the one who thinks of himself as the victim of forces beyond his control.

Somehow the older son seems to fit in that groove. Jesus draws a sharp, poignant picture. The servants tell the older son on his return from the field that his brother has returned. The stay-at-home son is upset in hearing that his father goes all out in treating him as a member of the family once again. "Get sandals for him. After all, only slaves go barefoot." The father with joy in his heart then heads out to greet the older, brooding son. His joy shakes as this son tells him "Unlike this son of YOURS, Iíve been good to an extreme, Mr. Obedience all the way through." Sarcastic words distance himself from his father as he says: "this son of YOURS. The father in his love for this older son realizes that the young man is more lost than he realizes. He tries to close the distance between them in saying: "My son, you are with me always. This "brother of YOURS" has been lost and has been found. Come inside. All that I have is yours." Does the bitterness in the older sonís heart find an echoing note in our own lives? Does he join the party?

Through Jesus with arms stretched out on the cross, God the Father in his prodigal, extravagant love for you and me is always saying: "Welcome. Wrap yourself in my love for you. For in my love for you in constantly reaching out to you I have found you. You too left home in a different way than all your sisters and brothers did. Itís been a long road for all of you. Be prodigalóextravagant in your love. Come on in! Join the party.

Do we?

Explanatory note on scripture readings

The people of Israel had been unfaithful to the Lord. Moses, in speaking up for them, does not defend their sin. Rather he boldly asks the Lord to remember his promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Moses knew that the God to whom he prayed would be true to every promise, every word.

God always forgives us, not because of who we are, but because of who he is.

A Reading from the Book of Exodus

Telling our own personal story to someone else sets up an important connection to that person. Paulís telling his own storyó

-with some exaggerations,--helps him to serve as an example to you and me. If the Lord showed mercy to Paul, then he can and will be mindful to anyone, no matter how serious the sin.

A Reading from the First Letter of Paul to Timothy

Read other homilies by Father Paul