by Allison Blay
“This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” (Lk 15:2)
This is the complaint of the Pharisees and scribes about Jesus. In response he tells them a series of parables, including the one in today’s gospel, the parable of the lost son: the story of the younger son who asks for and then squanders his father’s inheritance, of his father’s joyful response at his return, and of the older son’s jealousy of the father’s extravagant welcome. Many of us might find it comforting to identify with the younger son in this story, trusting that even if we make poor choices and misuse God’s gifts, we can still be welcomed home joyfully. A few of us might even identify with the father, as we think of loved ones in our lives we would gladly welcome home if given the chance.
But how many of us identify with the jealous older brother? How many of us begrudge God’s generous mercy towards those who have made huge mistakes? How many of us realize that we, too, are called to model mercy? Certainly ours is not a society that tends towards mercy. Those who are poor are often blamed for their lot. Those with any kind of prison record may struggle to find work and acceptance. And those on death row continue to be executed in the name of “justice”.
The jealous scribes and Pharisees are challenged to see themselves in this parable; perhaps we are as well. Perhaps we are called to recognize how Christ can make everything new, as our second reading says. Perhaps we are asked to let go of the “disgrace of Egypt” as God did for the Israelites in our first reading. Our merciful God invites us to let go of jealous condemnation, our whiny “It’s not fair!” attitude, and enter the banquet hall in celebration, mercy and acceptance.
- With whom do I identify in the story of the lost son?
- In what ways am I called to recognize my own need for mercy, and to share that mercy with others?
- What brothers and sisters might I be asked to welcome and break bread with today?
* This reflection is from Everything is Grace: Reflections for Lent 2016, now available for purchase and download from the Pax Christi USA Store online.