God Never Tires of Loving and Forgiving
This parable of the prodigal son is a textbook prototype for our Jubilee Year of Mercy. However, sometimes we seem to prefer a stingy or miserly God… at least for other people! We might call this the “elder son syndrome” when we get resentful that God extends mercy and compassion to all!
I remember preaching a homily at a prominent parish one Sunday morning; the Gospel was the parable of the workers in the vineyard in Matthew 20:1ff. The body language of some folks in the pews betrayed their feelings of resentment at the Gospel moral. Remember? They agree upon a certain wage and go off to work in the vineyard. The owner returns several times throughout the day to procure additional workers, then the end of the work day comes. They all line up for their pay, and when those who were hired last got the “agreed upon” wage, those who had labored in the hot sun all day thought surely they would receive a bonus. They receive the agreed-upon wage, and soon begin grumbling. The owner simply replies, “Can I not pay workers what I wish? Are you upset because I am generous?”
Several times in the Gospel Jesus says things like, “God causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5) Why should we find fault when God is generous or merciful? Perhaps today is a good time to ponder the many times in the Gospels that we experience God lavishing us with God’s bounteous gifts? Baskets of leftovers after the feeding of the multitude, or the many gallons of wine at the wedding feast of Cana? Our God is an “all-too-much” God, who lavishes us with favor, unconditional love. And if the word “prodigal” means wasteful, maybe it is not so much the younger son who is prodigal, but the father who wastes his love on sons who are not mature enough to respond in an adult, loving way. Yet, our God never tires of loving and forgiving! Never.
Fr. Jack Conley, C.P. is the director of the Office of Mission Effectiveness. He is a member of the Passionist formation community at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago.