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Never lost to the eyes of God PDF Print E-mail

15 September 2013: Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

There will be joy in heaven over one sinner who does penance.

Rembrandt saw clearly the wastrel boy is gathered back into the milieu of love to which he has no title, and by this welcome, he is surely transformed. Whatever we may say about the story of the Lost Son, we cannot say that it is out of date. Think, for a moment about waste. Shakespeare’s Richard II says at one point, ‘I wasted time and now time wastes me’, and one need not be a king or even particularly old, to notice how, as we say, things catch up with us when, out of cowardice or avoidable foolishness or policy of selfishness, we have lived trivially and have kept ourselves morally and spiritually stunted.

Our integrity and our wisdom can be sapped by unruly desires, by irresponsible friends and companions, by competitiveness, by laziness. There is a prodigal son or a prodigal daughter, nesting in the heart of each of us and it easy enough to let them have their own perverse way. This road is not necessarily glamorous or enchanting: but we can still get there by seedy, little by-paths.

There are plenty of things in our Australian environment, and in the environment of the world as a whole, which press against this growth in us. Resentment and cynicism are two of the most damaging of forces. The elder son in our Lord’s story is both resentful and cynical a wastrel and he is cynical about any good outcome from that lavishness. Indeed, his voice may be said to be the voice of the devil - scornful, dismissive, in love with futility. It is a voice easy to hear in Australia, and not only in the mouths of demagogues. The diabolic voice, bitter, belittling and self shielding, can be heard in any pub, on any campus and in any university college. “Bread for the Journey’’ Peter Steele SJ

Jesus is challenging us to convert to a new image of God best pictured in the Lost Son: God is indeed this loving Father, who allows his youngest son the freedom to leave with his share of inheritance but who also keeps waiting for his return and welcomes him warmly as his son, without asking any apology from him. Do we believe that we are never lost to the eyes of God? Are we going to be resentful at God’s unbounded generosity to others who are treated so indulgently?