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.
‘How many of my father’s hired workers have more than enough food to eat, but here am I, dying from hunger. I shall get up and go to my father and I shall say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as you would treat one of your hired workers.”’ (Lk 15:17-19)
The Parable of the Prodigal Son—we’ve heard it so often. But look what the youngest son was actually saying: "I don't deserve to be called your son. Treat me like one of your hired workers." The son hadn’t learned anything from his experience. He wanted to earn his way back . . . but of course the father wouldn’t hear of it. Guess we need to remember that we can’t earn our way back either. Grace is freely given. We never stop being children of God no matter what we've done. As the father in the parable says, “because this child of mine was dead, and has come to life again; he was lost, and has been found, so let the party begin!”
Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his sons, because he was the son of his old age. And he made him a robe of many colors. (Gen 37:3)
The “coat of many colors,” no matter how you translate it, set Joseph apart from his brothers as the favorite son. And of course, it set up an ugly sibling rivalry that would end in Joseph being sold as a slave in Egypt, thereby accomplishing God’s mysterious plan of salvation.
“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 16:19-22)
I will never forget the New Testament class in seminary when we discussed this parable. Our professor said, “In the ancient world, only the rich had tombs.” So we asked, what happened to Lazarus. And he answered, “The dogs ate him. They had already had a taste when they licked his wounds.” Thank goodness, the gospel writer left out some details!
“You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?”
They said to him, “We can.”
“My cup you will indeed drink,
but to sit at my right and at my left,
this is not mine to give
but is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” (Mt 20:22-23)
When the Lord tells the two ambitious disciples, "My cup you will indeed drink," he was not referring to a gold cup on the altar. As Saint John Chrysostom reminds the church, "God has no need of golden vessels but of golden hearts."
"Do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you,
but do not follow their example.
For they preach but they do not practice." (Mt 23:3)
In the ordination rite for deacons, the bishop gives the Book of the Gospels to the one ordained and says: "Receive the Gospel of Christ. Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and put into practice what you teach." A good reminder for us all.
From the shining cloud the Father’s voice is heard: This is my beloved Son, hear him. (Mt 17:5)
In the glory of the Resurrection Jesus is transfigured and so are we. We see Him in new light, and we catch a glimpse of what awaits us all in the Easter that never ends.