Losing something of value can be devastating. When we find what was lost, we rejoice. We party.
The three stories that Jesus told make absolutely no sense to a practical mind. A smart shepherd does not abandon 99 sheep to search for one that got lost. And only a dumb woman gives a party to celebrate the finding of one lost coin. The party probably cost more than the value of the coin. Nonsensical stories demonstrate that celebration does not have to make sense. Celebration does not have to be practical. The three stories are about God’s love for us, which is reason enough to celebrate. We are the lost sheep. We are the lost coin. We are the lost son who left his father, his home, his family. In claiming his inheritance, the younger son lost himself. He got the money. Yet, as we have often heard, “Money isn’t everything.” Especially in the Valley we know how important family is. Parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, godfather, godmother—our family’s blood runs in our veins. We look like them, they look like us. When we are successful, they are proud of us. When we fail, they hurt with us. That’s why the blessing of our parents is so important in everything that we do. Not to have their blessing, usually results in disaster. Much is left unsaid in the Gospel. For example, when the younger son asked for his share of the inheritance, we do not know if the father objected in any way, warned him, gave him advice. Yet, the son got what he wanted. Seems like the only thing that mattered to him was the money.
We are accustomed to getting what we want, particularly in this country. We do not even have to leave our house. We can shop on-line, or make a phone call, or send a text. Unless we are homeless, we usually have more than we need. Given a two-year pandemic, drastic inflation, food shortages, there is still hope for a better tomorrow. We recover, as we always have. Wars, the great depression, the Spanish flu caused a lot of damage. But we recovered. God is the prodigal Father who gives without question. God gives us life even when we are sinning. His grace is for those who are good and those who do bad things. God does not discriminate. The Lord grants us favors because He loves us, not because we are deserving. The one truth that we will always have trouble accepting: God loves us for who we are at this moment, not what we hope to be.
The father in the story represents God the Father who loves us all. Notice that the father in the story loved both of his sons. Yet, we can tell that the young son needed more attention. Obviously, he did not love himself and went looking for happiness in all the wrong places—a very common behavior in our mixed-up world. We look for happiness outside of the Father’s house. However, the Father’s door is always opened. He waits for us to come home. Whatever needs to happen for us to come to our senses. The young man in the story ended up in the mud feeding pigs. That was his moment of truth when he realized that everything had gone wrong. Perhaps he had suicidal thoughts. Yet, the young man remembered who he was! “I have a father who loves me. I have a home! I have dignity!” The young man returned with his tail between his legs, expecting nothing but a little food and a roof over his head. Look what he received! A ring, the finest robe, and a big party. The father did not allow him to speak because he already knew that he was sorry. God treats us in the same way. We do not have to enumerate our sins for God. He already knows that we are sorry. God know our contrite heart and forgives us before we ask. The challenge is for us to come to our senses, return home. And don’t forget the party. We must never forget the party—the Eucharist.
Jesus Christ was killed for us so that our sins would be forgiven. We are free. The Father is waiting to celebrate with us.