|An Open Invitation|
When we look at the Bible as a whole, it can appear that the Gospels and Jesus' teachings are a very small part of it, especially for us in a culture that quantifies everything. It's so easy, therefore, to give less emphasis to the Gospels. Many think, that while remaining very important, the story of Jesus' life and teaching, is just part of a bigger picture. Think of all the bible studies you've heard of or been part of in your memory. Very few, maybe none, I would surmise, have been centered on Jesus and the Gospels, most have been focused on the Old Testament and the Letters of St. Paul. Most conservative churches, while praising the Lord in song, shy away from the Gospels and the hard sayings and teachings of Jesus. The thinking: There is so much more to God's Word than the Gospels.
In a way, this is true. There is so much more to the Bible than the Gospels. And yet here is the rub: If Jesus is the true and fullest revelation of God and what God is like and what God's will for the world is, then the Gospels must be given center stage always. It is Jesus who becomes the chief and absolute interpreter of the Bible and never the other way around. The development of Liturgy over the centuries has revolved around two parts: the proclamation of the Gospel and the Breaking of the Bread. Leave the Liturgy of the Church behind and the pastor picking the texts each Sunday and doing "series" on say, a book in the Old Testament, and you might never hear Jesus or his hard teachings mentioned.
Today, in this Gospel story/parable, we have the most complete revelation by Jesus of what his Father (God) is like. We have Jesus to blame for revealing God as Father and all the implications of what God's Fatherhood means. I say "blame" because there is not one religion, including Judaism, calls it adherents to relate to God as Father, and if God is Creator of all of us in this world, then as Our Father (as Jesus taught us to pray), every human being is a brother or sister in one family! If someone doesn't accept this, they have Jesus to blame.
The whole human experience from Cain and Abel onward is about brothers and sisters being estranged from one another. Brothers killing brothers is the never ending story. This is the case also in a Christianity that distances itself, however subtly, from Jesus and Gospel. Case in point, there are over 40,000 christian denominations, many at enmity with one another, who have virtually said, give me my share of the inheritance, I'm out of here! Off they go with part of the Truth and a chip on their shoulder!
It's as if the father is actually dead, when the younger son demands his inheritance and goes off and squanders it in loose living. It's no better really for the elder son. He's doing his work and abiding his time to inherit everything when the Father dies, and, in a way, the Father is dead to him also. Just a little longer.
But the Father is alive. Watching down the road hoping his son will come home. When he finally does, the Father runs to him with open arms and orders his servants to prepare a party of celebration! No matter that even the wayward son believes he doesn't deserve his father's love and welcome. And, the elder son, seeing his Father coming alive, resents the party being put on for his brother. He's been faithful and good, a hard worker, keeping his nose clean, and there's never been a party for him! He complains to the father: This son of yours did this and that! He refuses to acknowledge his brother as such. But the father replies: This brother of yours has returned and we have to celebrate. The elder son states he will have no part in the celebration. There is no angry retort from the father, he doesn't say that he isn't welcome. The father leaves it open.
The question for me: Is God our Father, or not? It seems that God as Father is dead for the vast majority of the world. There is a lot of belief in God, but very little relating to God as Father as Jesus teaches. Do we realize that the Lord's prayer, a prayer Jesus teaches, reveals all of us as brothers and sisters. And if you relate to the experience of the younger son, your Father is waiting for you to come home and experience his Love once again. And if you relate to the elder son and you don't want to mix it up with others you don't like, then the Father doesn't condemn you either, but leaves an open invitation to you to join the party perhaps someday. The Father leaves us free, only loves us and forgives us, inviting us to the party if we'd like to come.
The "New Creation" in Christ that St. Paul talks about is coming about slowly, but surely. It is living in the Fatherhood of God where brothers and sisters are reconciled to one another. Living in the New Creation means giving up constantly defining oneself over against others, making comparisons, keeping rivalries alive, requiring the death of others, and remembering always that any vengeance is God's and God will repay. This is regarding everything from God's (Jesus') point of view, and not a "human point of view."
Paul calls us Ambassadors for Christ. An Ambassador is a person called out of their own nation to represent it in a foreign land. We are followers of Jesus, our citizenship is in heaven with God. We represent this "nation" in a foreign land where there is much ignorance of God's Fatherhood and love and the deep knowledge that we are most truly sisters and brothers of one another in God's family. This is the Good News we can bring to the world with God's help.
Saint Alban Episcopal Mission (English) meets for mass every Sunday at 10:00 A.M. (see welcome letter at sidebar) at Casa Convento Concepcion, 4a Calle Oriente No. 41, Antigua, Guatemala.