Daily Reflection
March 21st, 2004
Larry Gillick, S.J.
Deglman Center for Ignatian Spirituality
Click here for a photo of and information on this writer.


Finding AND BEING FOUND ARE BOTH WONDERFUL EXPERIENCES. In our readings we will hear about the finders and the found and all within the context of celebration. 

Lent is a celebration of the truth of our needing to be found and our desire to celebrate that at Easter with the newly-found in Baptism.

Our “reproach” has been removed. We are the lost coin, sheep and child. We can be found only in our truth and this aspect of our mystery is not so easy to find ourselves.

We pray with the reality of the loving Finder who counts our futures something to offer us and offers our pasts as a reminder that even then, the Finder was waiting to be gracious to us. We pray to come to our senses and to be excited about our individual and collective returns.


Joshua has been handed over the leadership from Moses. The Israelites have fled Egypt and have entered the land of promise, the land of Canaan. They celebrate their freedom by eating from the produce of this new covenantal gift. Their “reproach” was not any religious infidelities or collective rebellions. While in Egypt, the men were prevented from entering ritualistically into full communion with their tradition. They were not allowed to be circumcised. This ritual was a sign of their believing in the Covenant of prosperity, including land and offspring. 

In our First Reading the whole of the people recall their Exodus in the midst of the fertility of the land. God has been abundantly faithful after sending Moses to find them as we heard last weekend. Their futures will contain further stories of God’s finding them and carrying them back to their home land and back to their being God’s chosen people.

The manna, which had accompanied them as a reminder, ceases. The land and the abundance of the fields and the offspring are now the surrounding reminders of God’s care. God is the Finder and the Keeper.

The Gospel is a wonderful story told to the Pharisees, but in the context of Jesus’ eating with the tax collectors and other sinners. As parable it is meant to catch the hearers’ attention, imagination and power of interpretation. It has its complications, but is also a direct shot at the “older son” who represents the complaining Pharisees. So many articles and books have been written about this lifelike consummation of all Jesus’ teachings concerning God’s abundant and unjust mercy and love. I would imagine that this story has been enacted within the lives of most of our families and communities; I hope so indeed.

Last Sunday the parable concerned a “fig tree” which had exhausted the soil in its attempts to produce fruit. Its limp branches bow down in frustrational shame towards the ground from which it had hoped to receive life. Its branches would have been better raised to the skies from whence all moisture and sun descend. This Sunday’s parable is a similar picture. The younger son gives up on his father as source of true life and takes his portion of the inheritance with him, signifying that as far as he is concerned, his father is dead.

The lad goes off to a” distant” land. He will ask that land, that earth to give him life, but it fails him. He lands flat among the pigs of the earth and behold, “He comes to his senses.”

Two meanings of the word “senses” are important here. The first is his mental “senses” where he comes to an understanding that the earth and his earthliness are limited in their abilities to support him with true life. He is aided by his “senses” of sight as he looks around at himself and his swine-friends. He smells and hears himself. This is no way to be real! So he gets up to seek his father.

Here’s an important event; his father is watching for him. His father does not force him to return; he waits only to welcome him back to the “land” of the living. There is a great celebration then attended by everybody including the “fatted calf.”  Well the “older son” does not attend nor approve. He is jealous of his father’s generous mercy and welcome. His father reasons with the pharisaical son. He relates all his kindnesses to this angry son who has a reasonable pout and complaint.

The “older son” has served well in holding the farm and family together. Jesus does not rebuke the Pharisees past fidelity to their tradition. He is attempting to reveal a deeper mystery of the love of the covenanting God.  Jesus is new! The new is frightening to the righteous and self-protecting “older sons.”

All the while Jesus is telling this long and involved story, the tax collectors and other sinners are jumping up and saying, “You tell em Lord!” These are the true beginners of the Christian community then. We the Church are jumping up after the Great Amen in the liturgy. We are those who have come to our senses and are celebrating that all true life comes to and not from the earth in Jesus Christ.

We do get tempted to be our own “older brother” who doubts whether God can forgive us and be lavish with life-giving and sustaining mercy. Instead of pouting, I’ll do the shouting, “You tell em and me Lord!”

One problem; next-Sunday’s Gospel reveals the implications of our being forgiven. Stay tuned and stay in your “senses.”
Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.” Ps. 34

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