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Reflections on the Daily Readings
from the Perspective of Creighton Students

September 15th, 2013
by
Madeline Zukowski
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| Email: MadelineZukowski@creighton.edu

[132] Exod 32:7-11, 13-14
Ps 51:3-4, 12-13, 17+19
1 Tim 1:12-17
Luke 15:1-32

“I tell you, in just the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.” –Lk 15:7

I find today’s readings quite interesting because they show us two very different sides of God. 

In today’s excerpt from Exodus, we see God as what many of my theology professors have called “the Old Testament God.” He is an extremely angry, wrathful, and almost revengeful God who punishes his people when they sin against him. I don’t necessarily blame him; if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my scripture course, it’s that Israel did nothing but disobey.  However, we are taught that God is always merciful, forgiving, and loving.  These two pictures don’t necessarily match up, do they?  I always found that interesting. 

Today’s long gospel contains two shorter stories and the longer story of the prodigal son.  Jesus speaks to the Pharisees and scribes in parables.  He first tells the story of a man who has a hundred sheep and after losing one, leaves the ninety-nine to find the lost one.  Jesus then tells the story of the woman who has ten coins and loses one.  She proceeds to sweep the floor clean and searches for the lost coin until she finds it.  These two stories are parallel to the prodigal son.  There’s always a main figure, a lost figure, and others who are not lost.  In the story of the prodigal son, the brother who stays with his father is angry that his father is throwing a party for his brother, the son who had left and spent all of his inheritance and came back to his father homeless and poor. 

The prodigal son is one of my favorite stories in the Bible, and I have already reflected on this gospel for the Student Daily Reflections in December of 2012.  I’d like to quote part of what I wrote in that reflection, because I feel like it really drives my point home. I apologize for those of you who read reflections every day, because this may sound familiar:

"For one of my theology classes, we were assigned to read Doing the Truth in Love: Conversations about God, Relationships, and Service.  In this book, the author, Michael Himes, explains that the prodigal son is about “the incomprehensibility of the love and mystery of God.” He goes on to say: “…the father isn’t concerned with justice.  The father is concerned with agape, absolute unconditional self-gift. The older son can argue ‘Look, he demanded money he had no right to and he lost it.  He has never shown the least regard for you or for this family.  He doesn’t deserve the party which you are giving him.  This is unjust.’  And, given the older son’s perspective, he is quite right.  The father can reply, ‘But the young man was lost; now he’s found. He was dead; now he’s alive.’ What is the obvious response? Have a party.  And the father is right, given the father’s perspective.  The parable’s point is to underscore that there are two different perspectives, each understandable in itself and each incomprehensible to the other.  God does not see as human beings see…” 

So how can the father, who symbolizes God, justify leaving the other ninety-nine sheep to look for one lost sheep? In God’s perspective, it makes more sense to look for that one lost sheep or that one lost coin.  In our perspective, it doesn’t make sense, and we would care more for the ninety-nine others. But God does not have the same perspective as human beings do.  God is agape love, a self-giving love that expects nothing in return.  This is a wonderful gift for all of us.  When we sin and realize our mistakes, we know that we can always expect God’s open arms to welcome us back.

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