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March 20, 1998     The Message
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March 20, 1998

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14 The Message -- for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana Lost and found: The prodigal son By FATHER DONALD DILGER Columnist Gospel Commentary for March 22, 1998 Fourth Sunday Of Lent: Cycle C: Luke 15:1-3, 11-32 The parable of the prodigal or free-spending son is one of three parables that can be headlined with the title "Lost and Found." They show how God's mercy reaches beyond all human restrictions in the divine readiness to forgive and reconcile sinners. In his intro- duction to the three parables Luke characteristically recalls his major theme of God's special outreach toward "tax collectors and sinners," a phrase that in Luke's gospel represents all social outcasts. The Lucan Jesus addresses the three parables to the religious lead- ership of the day. They are portrayed as complaining that Jesus "receives sinners and eats with them." The first parable depicts a man who has a hun- dred sheep. One gets lost. He leaves the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and goes looking for his lost sheep. A fool, we would say, to leave his whole herd of sheep unguarded against marauding animals or thieves while looking for only one lost sheep. Details of parables must not be pressed too closely or we lose sight of the point the parable makes, that God's ways are not our ways, that God's mercy goes beyond all human reasoning. In the second parable a woman has ten silver coins. She loses one and seeks diligently until she has found it. Then she throws a big party which surely cost her much more than the value of the one coin. She becomes the prodigal woman, or certainly a very impractical woman. The point again is made that God's mercy, which seems foolishly wasteful to us, is precisely how God acts toward sin- ners. Both parables end with a statement about the joy in heaven over one repentant sinner. The third and best-known of the three "lost and found" parables is that of the prodigal or wasteful son. He asks his father for his share of the inheri- tance. A seemingly foolish father hands it over to him. He leaves home and spends his whole inheri- tance on a life of ease and pleasure. Fallen on hard times, he takes a job feeding pigs. He is so hungry that he envies the pigs who have plenty to eat. He comes to his senses and decides to return to his father to beg forgiveness and to be hired now as a servant rather than received as a son. The father seems to have been longing for his wayward son. He runs to meet him, embraces and kisses him. The son begins his well-rehearsed speech of repentance, but the father cuts him short and orders a big party to wel- come him home, not as a servant, but as a returned son. There was an older brother who had stayed home and continued to work for his father. He had kept the rules while the younger son had broken all or them. He was working on the farm when he heard the noise of the party. When he discovers that his wasteful brother has returned and been joyfully wel- comed as lost and returned son, he complains bitterly to his father. He refuses to even acknowledge the returned son as his brother, calling him "this son of yours who has spent his money on prostitutes." The father assures the elder son that all he owns also belongs to the .elder son, but it was appropriate for them to celebrate because, "this brother of yours was dead, but now is alive. He was lost and is found." Let us assume that the setting Luke gives the para- ble is historically correct for the time of Jesus. This means that Jesus spoke this parable as a challenge to religious leadership about fifty years before Luke wrote his gospel. There is enough evidence in all the gospels to vindicate the historical accuracy of Luke's assertion that the religious leadership of Jesus' time were very bothered by the kinds of "low-life" with whom Jesus associated and frequently confronted him on this issue. In this parable Jesus would have appealed to them to see themselves in the older broth- er. Like the older brother, they would "brothers" those in society who were beneath them socially, such as the capped, tax-collectors, etc. Jesus, acting ambassador, "receives sinners and His association with them teaches the love of God. Luke writes a time on earth. He is not writing catechism. We may wonder leaders of his own Christian Church avoid or even social status than themselves. in the Christian Churches is obvious fm I gospel which warns Church one of these little ones!" The ly condemns the practice poor. Apparently this has always remains an abuse in the Church. Luke i first business of Church leaders unwanted and the despised of The usefulness of the parable of need not stop with Jesus' ] chism. The early Christian surely have seen Jewish Christians er and Gentile Christians in the' acceptance of converts frc be emphasized over and over Jesus and to Yahweh in the Old brothers of the parable are used more as ourselves. The younger the ner who at one time lived in the Father's house, fell into was welcomed back. The also ner," one who has kept the self-righteously regards repentant or envy and refuses to accept them sisters. Readings: Joshua 5:9a 17-21; Luke 15:1-3, 11-32. Golden Jubilarians Wilfred and Mary Jane (Schmitt) Tenbarge of Haubstadt will cel- ebrate their fiftieth wedding anniversary with a Mass of Thanks- giving March 28. There will also be a reception, dinner and dance. They were married March 31, 1948, at St. Francis Xavier Church, Poseyville. They are the parents of seven sons, Bill, Don, John, Fred, Mike, Mark and Bernie, all of Haubstadt, and three daughters, Theresa Vick of Evansville, Ann Luttrell of Fort Branch, and Mary Ellen Duke of Columbus. They have 26 grand- children. Mr. Tenbarge is retired from dairy and grain farming. Mrs. Tenbarge is a housewife. Golden Jubilarians Jerome and June (Hambecker) Kayser of Evansville will celebrate their fiftieth wedding anniversary April 3. They were married April 3,1948, at Nativity of Our Lord Church in St. Louis. They are the parents of seven children: Anne Marie Lannert of St. Joseph, Barbara Steele of Evansville, Fred Kayser of Bowling Green., Ky., Katherine Wingert of St. Joseph, John Kayser of Evansville, Paul Kayser of Evansville, and Mary Ann Hess of Leopold. They have 19 grandchildren. Mr. Kayser is retired from Evansville Water and Sewer Utility. Mrs. Kayser is a homemaker. iii i \\; TRUCK AND TRAILER SALES nuamna 10000 STATI HWY 15"7 * EVANIVILLIE, IN 47732 i i ii i I |111 i ii i I Dr. 1111 S Green saraN! Fire Equi OVer 670 E, 254-1430 1