Our readings portray a beautiful mosaic. A mosaic is an artwork in which small pieces of pottery, stones, tiles, or broken shards, are placed together to create a unique and whole picture. The mosaic that comes together in today’s reading is one of God’s infinite and loving embrace.
This image may not seem apparent in the first reading proclaimed from Exodus. At first hearing, we may see a vengeful God who is seeking to destroy his people, to wipe them off the face of the earth as he had done at the time of Noah. One of the tiles of our mosaic that radiates a glimmer of God’s love for us is found in the encounter with Moses and God.
Moses is given the opportunity to replace Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the patriarchs and founding fathers of Judaism if he allows God’s wrath to flare up. Moses can be the new patriarch and begin again with a new people. Instead, he intercedes on behalf of the people so they may be renewed as a new people in communion with God (Propp).
God promised Noah that he would never again destroy his people by a flood. Moses remembered his Bible and was as faithful as Abraham when put to the test. Moses would, time and again, and not always as patient as here, call back the people of Israel from their unfaithfulness, and invite them to return to the covenantal bond with God.
In our gospel from Luke, there are three more polished tiles that radiate the love of God and enhance our mosaic. The good shepherd, the woman and the coin, and what is often called the prodigal son. In each case, a sheep, a coin, and a son are lost but then are found. Great joy accompanies the finding!
The added twist with the prodigal son story is that one is not so joyful – the elder son. He refuses to come into the house to celebrate as well as his father’s attempts to comfort him (Johnson). The anger toward his father he has harbored all these years comes out, but is misdirected to his brother (Johnson).
Both sons have refused the love of their father. The younger son considered his father dead to him in originally asking for his inheritance. The elder son held a long simmering grudge. The father comes with heart and arms wide open to first his returning son and then to his son outside to share in the celebration. We do not know what will happen with either son going forward. How will each son respond to the Father’s invitation of love?
Where do we find ourselves in theses parables?
St. Paul who we heard from in our second reading is a good guide. Saul before he became Paul was the elder son. He was like the Pharisees and scribes that Jesus was addressing at the beginning of these parables. When Saul encountered Christ, he was disoriented for a time, but came to see the light and the truth of the Father’s love and surrendered completely into his loving embrace. “Strengthened by Jesus, Paul finds an abundance of faith and love where blasphemy, persecution, and insolence once ruled (Fiore).
May the words of St. Paul that he wrote to Timothy encourage us today: “I am grateful to him who has strengthened me, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he considered me trustworthy in appointing me to the ministry” (I Tim 1:12).
Paul’s account is another piece we can add to our mosaic. Yet there is another story not yet shared. There are many pieces still missing. God has also run out to meet us this morning through his Son, who “came into the world to save” each one of us, “sinners” (I Tim 1:15). We are invited to be part of this same ministry of receiving and sharing the love of God. Are we willing to repent from that which is not of God and give our lives to him this morning as we receive his Son in the Eucharist? And are we willing to be a vital part of this mosaic of God’s love that we have started piecing together today so that others may receive the gift of the Father’s love as well?
God loves us more than we can ever mess up, does not define us by our worst mistakes, “loves us in our sin, even in the act of our sin” (Bosso), and more than we can ever imagine. I invite you be still today and allow yourself to be embraced by the love of the Father so that you may become a reservoir of God’s love that fills you up to overflowing.
Painting: Rembrandt, The Return of the Prodigal Son, c. 1661–1669
William H. C. Propp Exodus 19–40: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary, vol. 2A, Anchor Yale Bible (New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 2008), 554.
Benjamin Fiore The Pastoral Epistles: First Timothy, Second Timothy, Titus, ed. Daniel J. Harrington, vol. 12, Sacra Pagina Series (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2007), 48, 53, 54.
Joseph A. Fitzmeyer, S.J., The Gospel according to Luke X–XXIV: Introduction, Translation, and Notes, vol. 28A, Anchor Yale Bible (New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 2008), 1084–1086.
Luke Timothy Johnson, The Gospel of Luke, ed. Daniel J. Harrington, vol. 3, Sacra Pagina Series (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1991), 240-242.
Msgr. Steven Bosso “A Time of Letting God Love Us In Our Sinfulness”, (Orientation Retreat Conference, St Vincent de Paul Seminary, Boynton Beach, FL, August 17, 2022).