These reflections are a result of more than 40 years of ministry as a Roman Catholic priest. Most of these years I spent in the Diocese of Charlotte which covers Western North Carolina. Now I am retired, and live in Medellín, Colombia where I continue to serve as a priest in the Archdiocese of Medellín.
Tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to Jesus, but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying, "This man welcomes sinners and eats with them" . . . “He said to him, 'My son, you are here with me always; everything I have is yours. But now we must celebrate and rejoice, because your brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.'" (Lk 15:1-3, 11-32)
The Parable of the Prodigal Son is perhaps the crowning jewel among the many parables of Jesus. The parable is given in the context of the complaint against Jesus: "This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” Of course, the Eucharist is the celebration of the One who welcomes sinners and invites us to the Table. And we ask the prayers of the Virgin Mary: Pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death.
Israel loved Joseph best of all his sons, for he was the child of his old age; and he had made him a long tunic. When his brothers saw that their father loved him best of all his sons, they hated him so much that they would not even greet him. (Gen 37:3-4, 12-13a, 17b-28a)
Sibling rivalry and family squabbles are common, not very pretty occurrences in everyday life. But God can use even our basest instincts to bring about the great plan of Salvation.
Jesus said to the Pharisees: "There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day. And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man's table. Dogs even used to come and lick his sores. When the poor man died, he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. (Lk 16:19-31)
I will never forget the day in seminary when our New Testament professor explained to us this parable and what happened to the poor man when he died. The rich man when he died was buried, but the poor man . . . well, dogs were scavengers in the cities of the ancient world.
Jesus said to his disciples: “Whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Mt 20:17-28)
It’s not about power, nor seats of honor, it’s about service. It’s all about service—just as Jesus taught us.
Make justice your aim: redress the wronged, hear the orphan's plea, defend the widow. (Is 1:10, 16-20)
When we hear the words “Sodom and Gomorrah,” we don’t normally think of social justice. But according to the Prophet Isaiah the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah are exactly about justice, and the prophet gives the remedy: redressing the wronged, hearing the orphan’s cry and defending widows. Perhaps preachers need to pay attention. Today's picture is from the 1922 silent film, Sodom and Gomorrah.
Jesus said to his disciples: "Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven.” (Lk 6:36-38)
English is a bit defective in one sense: we can no longer distinguish between “you” singular and “you” plural. Greek, the original language of the New Testament as well as Spanish and most modern languages don’t have that problem. As a consequence we English speakers usually misinterpret passages, thinking that Jesus is speaking to individuals in isolation. Actually, about 95% of the “you’s” in the New Testament are PLURAL. In order to fix the problem, in the South we use the idiom, "y'all." Jesus and Saint Paul speak Southern.
Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them; from the cloud came a voice, "This is my beloved Son. Listen to him." (Mk 9:2-10)
The Transfiguration proclaims that the Law and the Prophets find their fulfillment in the beloved Son. The problem has always been one of failing to listen to him.