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
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
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
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