24 Sunday in Ordinary Time
LK 15:1-32
September 15, 2019

This Sunday, The Church gives us a particularly long Gospel. In fact, and most likely because of our really short attention spans, preachers are given the option of proclaiming only the first third of the chapter (Luke 15:1-10), omitting the very relatable drama of what some might consider to be a highly dysfunctional family. For me, that is like being served a bread basket, followed by small dinner salad, and then told the meal is over…no main course…no entree. I, for one, would leave the table unsatisfied…still hungry.

While both of the shorter parables stand on their own, delivering a lesson about the joy of recovering something thought to be irretrievably lost, it seems that Jesus intended them to be “appetizers” but not the full meal. So, I think if we are to walk away from The Table of The Word on this 24th Sunday completely satisfied, in spite of our really short attention spans, it’s important to be served up all three parables…and then dessert might be something really light…a very short homily.

The problem is, our host has done the shopping, set the table, laid out all the ingredients next to the pots and pans and cooking utensils, and has even opened the cookbook to the recipe…but has left us to prepare the meal. Think about it, there is no ending to the family drama. The Lord has left us everything we need to finish the story…according to our own taste…or preference…or experiences. But, it’s up to us to do the work.

I find the most helpful cookbooks to be those that have a large, colorful picture of the completed dish next to the recipe. That picture gives the amateur chef something to aim for. Very often, when one places their best effort next to the picture, it leaves something to be desired. But the next time they prepare the dish, it gets better. Encouraged, they keep returning to that recipe until it becomes their “signature dish.”

The key ingredients that the Lord has laid out for us this Sunday are patience, forgiveness, mercy, and, of course…LOVE. So what would a picture of this meal that we are invited to share today look like?

The “lost son,” having returned home out of desperation, would be overwhelmed with gratitude for the homecoming. Less out of guilt than from a newfound sense of duty and obligation, he would focus all of his energies towards restoring what he has squandered.

The father, now content that the “lost son” is home and back on track, would turn towards the “faithful son” in order to help him heal from the experience so as to restore harmony to the family. Still, fully understanding how short the human attention span truly is, the wise, patient, forgiving, merciful, and all-loving father would never stop worrying about his children.

While at first angry and resentful, the “faithful son” would slowly respond to the special attention of the patient and all-loving father, and encouraged by the efforts of his brother, would eventually imitate the father’s example of acceptance. Even the long suffering son would come to appreciate the joy in recovering something thought to be irretrievably lost.

That is the picture in the book. How does it compare with what you bring to the table?

Even people who betray you are part of the plan.