Daily Readings Reflection for 3/26/11

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Scripture: Lectionary 236. Micah 7:14-15.18-20. Psalm 103:1-2,3-4,9-10,
11-12. Luke 15:1-3,11-32

Today’s Readings

These Lenten readings catch us from all sides. The choices fit this season
of prayer and union with Jesus, the Suffering Servant. We learn much about
God’s love, generosity, and forgiveness. Today the wonderful mercy and
love of God are easily seen in all three readings that are full of hope for
us when we realize we need to stay on the right track if we are there or to
get back on it if we have wandered from it.

The setting for the great parable of the Prodigal Son or the Merciful
Father starts with Jesus being surrounded by public servants of the Romans
who collect taxes and often grab a large amount of what was collected for
themselves. There are also sinners present and in the mix we find the
Pharisees and those who would consider themselves religious leaders and
observers of the Torah.

Jesus is more concerned about the sinners and the tax collectors who are at
best marginal people in the eyes of the other group who are gathered close
enough to hear what Jesus is saying in this parable. Both will be surprised
at the ending and the fact that both groups are symbolized in the behavior
of the two sons of this very generous and compassionate father. Jesus
needs to teach with parables since he is arguing with those who claim they
know the Torah instruction completely. They make severe judgments about
the people who surround Jesus and also Jesus himself. Jesus does this in
order to get everyone to see the heart of the matter, that is, the
spiritual meaning of what the parable is saying. Jesus himself is not only
a great teacher but he is compassionate and merciful to those who need
someone to help them, to correct them, and to heal them.

The mercy of Jesus is seen in the parable and how both groups can have hope
and trust in this mercy that comes from God. We too are included and need
only to listen and respond to the merciful love of the father–representing
that of God and Jesus. This great parable focuses on the compassionate,
faithful, and loving father. The two sons represent the sinners and those
who consider themselves loyal and righteous.

Where do I fit in this parable? Am I indignant with the over zealous and
magnanimous welcoming of the younger son who comes back to his father and
feel cheated by the father? Or do we see ourselves as having the traits of
each of the sons from time to time? Maybe we even can identify more with
the loving father in our lives. We all want the freedom of the younger
son. We desire to be faithful to the way we were brought up like the elder
son. And we need to be like the father when it comes to forgiveness,
openness, and welcoming. This parable is an excellent one for Lent. It
makes us probe into our inner life and our motives. It helps us to prepare
ourselves for the sacrament of reconciliation. No wonder today’s great
spiritual writers love this parable and give us creative ways of
interpreting it.

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