Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time (September 15, 2019)

This morning we have had the opportunity to listen to a whole chapter of Luke’s Gospel. It contains the core of the Good News - the merciful forgiveness of our God.

Jesus is eating with sinners, an obvious problem for the religious leaders. Jesus’ actions are a parable in themselves, showing how much God loves sinners. God’s joy in the repentance of one sinner is so very clear. Then Jesus tells the story of the two sons.

The younger son is the obvious sinner and humbly receives the generous forgiveness of his father. But it is clear by the end of the story that the elder son is in an even worse state - not only is he unable to forgive his brother but he has estranged himself from his merciful father as well.

When we take the time to be honest before God, all of us realize that we are like the younger son, sinners in need of God’s merciful love. But we might ask ourselves if we don’t, at times, react as the elder son did, resentful that God also forgives the “greater sinners” around us. It’s so easy to fall into certain self-righteousness. Here we are trying to “be good” and others don’t seem to be struggling as we are. Very subtly, we begin to look down on others as if we are better than they are.

Humility is the recognition that I am unworthy of the great love God has for me. All of us are. Each of us has received God’s generous mercy again and again in our lives. Our only proper response is gratefulness and joy.

The Gospel story leaves the elder son’s response hanging. Will he recognize the younger sinner as his brother and welcome him home as his father has already done?

How would you or I respond? That’s the question for us in today’s Gospel. Will we be so grateful for our own experience of God’s amazing mercy that we will rejoice when any brother or sister returns home?

As the father reminds us: “We have to celebrate! This brother or sister of yours was dead and has come back to life; was lost, and is now found.”