The Prodigal Us – John Foley, SJ

Luke 15:1-32, 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time


A ridiculous story.

Who would be dumb enough to adore something they have constructed with their own hands! Imagine worshipping a molten calf! (First Reading)

Of course, we do have our beautiful houses, refrigerators, cars, magazines and clothes, don’t we? And our famous “bottom line” in business. And a low score at golf or high score at softball or hunting. And money. And cigarettes. And drink. And sex all over the place. More people in the United States watch pornography than watch sports. And we do often worship the current “stars” in Hollywood or on MTV, things we have created with our own hands.

But never mind that. In the First Reading we find God becoming quite upset because the people in ancient days put up cheap products as their God. While Moses is away, they have built a golden calf, and are making it their God. Ridiculous.

God had a different idea of his relation to the people. We could sum it up as follows:

What about the two-way covenant of love I have been offering you? “I will be your God and you will be my people. I will love you more than you can ask or imagine. Won’t you just love me in return?”

But they refuse and willfully run away to their paltry desires. God becomes angry, maybe in the way a parent would with a seriously disobedient child. He shouts at Moses,

let me alone, then,
that my wrath may blaze up against them
to consume them. First Reading

A few lines later, Moses acts as a family friend. He says,

Why, O Lord, should your wrath blaze up against your own people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with such great power and with so strong a hand? … Let your blazing wrath die down; relent in punishing your people.

Just calm down, Give them some time. God agrees.

Yet they were “worshipping” false gods! Maybe you and I do not exactly worship (fall down and adore) all the man-made items that demand our time, but have you ever run away from God so you can have whatever arouses your own addictions?

For sure the prodigal son (Gospel) did. He left what he felt were the “shackles” of home life and also the confining love from his father. He made himself “free”! He squandered everything on a life of dissipation, the equivalent of our many refrigerators, cars, houses, magazines and clothes.

When he finally comes crawling back home, defeated, we would expect his father to say: “Oh sure, now you turn up, thinking everything will be just like it used to be. Well think again, pal.”

But instead his father actually runs to meet his son, embraces him and prepares a huge feast of welcome. Did the young man get what he deserved? No, he got what his father prepared for him. Entire forgiveness.

God does not want to keep us from the things that attract us. He wants us to value them in due proportion. Love God above all things. Then you can love everything and everyone else as they deserve.

We fail, of course, like the prodigal, and like the ancient Israelites did. So Jesus pleads for us, just as Moses pleaded. God puts his arms around us and says, “welcome, welcome, welcome. You came back! We can love one another again, can’t we?”

We will do our best, we say.


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