Sunday, September 11, 2016

Are you coming to dinner?

Today's Gospel has a very familiar scene to Christians all over the world.  The story of the prodigal son has been discussed ad nauseuam for hundreds of years.  The beautiful thing about Scripture though is it that it speaks to us when and where we are.  The message it gives us, while tempered with the ages of Wisdom, has also a fresh look to each of us in each generation.   To me it speaks of God's astounding love and His relationship with us.  Like Saint Paul, I consider myself the foremost of sinners.   That's why I find so much comfort in this beautiful parable.

The first and most important part to me is the way the encounter happens.   The lost son is coming back repentant, hungry and covered in the filth of the world.   As he walks along he's practicing what he is going to say to his Father.  He's coming back begging for a place in the home, not even as a son.. but even as a servant.   The Father though runs out to greet him.   The moment the Father sees him in the distance he does not wait for the rehearsed speech, or for the son to shower and clean up, he just runs out with open arms.  This is what confession is all about.   It's God reaching out to us with open arms and saying I am here, come into my arms.

Then He is the one who cleans the son up, right?   He has a robe put on him, He puts a ring of authority on Him, He has a dinner prepared for him.   God does that work.   We have to come into the house though.  There are those who will say "God puts the robe on us, and that's that."  You still gotta come into the house.   You still gotta put on your table manners, and work to become a better person.  To live up the dignity of that robe you are wearing.   Saint James tells us that it is not just faith.. it's faith and works.. without works, faith is just dead.  The key is letting God work in your life.   It's giving Him the opportunity to robe you, to give you back your dignity, to reveal your status to others through the fullness of life, the joy and peace He offers to those who love Him.

The sad part is that while we are all prodigal sons and returning daily to Him through a process of continual conversion... we are also often the son who remained home... the one who was angry that the others were being brought into the fold.   Refusing to come to dinner because of "them."   We all have a "them."   Be it someone with a different skin color, different faith, political affiliation, or even just a fan of a different sports team.   The refugee is turned away because of 'them.'   The widow and the orphan go hungry because of 'them.'  It reminds me of these meme I saw on the internet that said "I thought to ask God why he allowed people to go hungry today and I was afraid He might ask me, why did you?"   He created us to be the hands and feet of his body... in order to do that we have to be welcoming of the prodigal sons as well.  Are your arms open?  Are you offering them food and drink?  Clothing and shelter?  Or are you refusing to join them at the feast even though all of this was already yours?

It's been 15 years now since the attack on September 11th.   Many of us have allowed that attack to create a world in which their is perpetual hate and a constant 'them.'   Today is a day to remember to pray not just for those whose lives were lost but also for those who took those lives... and for those who would do the same today to their 'them.'

His servant and yours,

A reflection on the readings for the Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time.  September 11th, 2016