RECEIVING THE LOST Luke 15:1-3, 11-32 March 10, 2013 Rev. Emmett H. Carroll, S.J.
RECEIVING THE LOST
Luke 15:1-3, 11-32
March 10, 2013
Rev. Emmett H. Carroll, S.J.
The story of the Prodigal Son suggests that God receives sinners with rejoicing, like a father receiving a son who distanced himself from his ancestral home.
The New Testament shows Christ reclaiming people who no longer live in accord with Mosaic Law. Christ offers the parable of a shepherd searching for the lost member of the flock.
If a shepherd has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine and go on the mountains in search of the one gone who has gone astray? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost (Matthew 18:12-14).
God rejoices in finding the stray; in human language, the heavenly court rejoices. God receives the lost person.
The gospels repeatedly depict Jesus mingling with those of disrepute. Our Lord seeks out the least likely and endeavors to regain them toward Godliness, receiving the lost person.
While [Jesus] was at table in [Matthew’s] house, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat with Jesus and his disciples. The Pharisees saw this and said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus heard this and said, “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. Go and learn the meaning of the words, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ I did not come to call the righteous but sinners” (Matthew 9:10-13).
Jesus goes in search of sinners; the Father receives the lost people.
In the gospel parable, perhaps no line is more famous than that recounting the human father on the search for his wayward son.
While [the prodigal] was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him…. His father ordered his servants, “Quickly, bring the finest robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet….This son of mine was dead, and has come to life again; he was lost, and has been found.”
In that parable, the human father is likened to God who searches for the wayward sinner, and who watches for his return to Godliness.
The son knows the depth of sin; he has used up the money given him by the father, and starvation has emptied the saloons, and this prodigal has spent his money hedonistically. This man slops the pigs, for in his hunger he has slipped socially and religiously lower than the hogs. Worse, his lust and greed and arrogance have brought this on himself. He turned his back on family, friends, homeland, and religious heritage. He became a non-person. Always, however, this prodigal feels himself in relation to his father. God the Father embraces the run-away; the Father receives the lost person.
Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832) (“Lay of the Last Minstrel”) describes a prodigal who has gone to a foreign land and who no longer desires to return to his birth place. It does happen that a person may deliberately turn his back on his ancestral home and seek out some foreign land where no one will know him.
Breathes there the man, with soul so dead,
Who never to himself hath said,
This is my own, my native land?
Whose heart hath ne’er within him burn’d
As home his footsteps he hath turn’d
From wandering on a foreign strand?
Sir Walter Scott condemns such a wretch saying that such …shall go
To the vile dust, from whence he sprung,
Unwept, unhonor’d. and unsung.
But the prodigal son did return; he escaped the plight described by Scott. The prodigal did go back to the Father receiving the lost person.
Perhaps you remember the 1980s when children missing from their families often appeared on milk cartons. When you purchased a quart of milk, you were sure to see the picture of a child who had recently disappeared. Usually, the police deemed these missing children. The families would gladly have received home the lost child. God seeks us with all the effort of a human father ready to receive the lost person.
In last summer’s London Olympic Games, a twenty-eight year old man ran a marathon not under the flag of his home nation, but under the flag of the Olympic Games. South Sudan, a new nation, has no recognized Olympic Committee. Guor Marial (born April 15, 1984) is a South Sudanese track athlete. He is a Dinka tribesman. In 1994, eight years old, Marial fled one night from a refugee camp during the Sudanese civil war. Twenty-eight members of his family were killed. He escaped to Egypt and eventually got to the United States. He lives and trains in Flagstaff, Arizona.
Now a permanent resident, not a citizen, of the United States, Guor Marial would seem, although unwillingly, to be like Sir Walter Scott’s “Man without a Country.” He is a Christian. His parents survived the Sudan civil war; he has not seen them in twenty years. Would not his mother and father welcome him as did the father of the Prodigal?
The Prodigal Son parable awakens the heart to the goodness of our Creator. He wants each of His creatures to succeed, to embrace the need for the Creator. God will joyfully receive us lost people. Amen!