THE HEART OF GOD – OUR PRODIGAL FATHER
First Reading: Hosea 11:1-4,8-9
Responsorial Psalm: Ps. 79(80):2-3,15-16
Gospel Reading: Matthew 10:7-15
Dictionary.com defines prodigal as “wastefully or recklessly extravagant” or “a person who spends or has spent, his/her money or substance with wasteful extravagance; spendthrift,” which has been used over time to characterize the personality of the younger son in Christ’s famous parable depicted in Luke 15:11–32. Nevertheless, there is another definition of ‘prodigal’: “giving or yielding profusely; to lavish” or “lavishly abundant; profuse.” This can be used to characterize the attitude of our God who goes extra miles in lavishing His love ‘extravagantly’ on humanity in order that she might be redeemed. Today’s readings reflect this loving heart of our God, the prodigal and faithful Father and his project of reconciling man to Himself.
In the first reading, the Prophet Amos speaks of God as an extremely tender Father, who reminds his son, Israel, of the remote times when, pulling him out of the slavery of Egypt, He led him gently by hand. This depiction of God as a tender Father comes after the earlier depiction of God as the “faithful Husband” of Israel (cf. Hos. 2:16). Here, the people repeatedly fell into idolatry, but God never relented in taking them back in His arms and showing them love, with expressions that touched the most intimate strings of the human thirst to be loved; trying to persuade him about the strength, fidelity and mercy of that love, as a tender and prodigal Father: “When Israel was a child I loved him, and I called my son out of Egypt. But the more I called to them, the further they went from me… I myself taught Ephraim to walk, I took them in my arms… Yet they have not understood that I was the one looking after them. Ephraim, how could I part with you? Israel, how could I give you up? I am the Holy One in your midst and have no wish to destroy.” Here, the attitude of God could be termed prodigal, in the sense that he keeps lavishing his love upon Israel in her unfaithfulness and seeking for ways to reconcile her back to Him.
This ‘extravagancy’ of our loving Father reaches its apex in the sending of our Lord Jesus Christ to save us from sin and death. In affirming this, Scripture describes how God did not spare His own Son; in other words, He sacrificed His most precious Son out of love in order that we might be redeemed (cf. Jn. 3:16, Rom. 8:32, et al.). In realizing this mission, Christ the Son of the Father gathered his followers and selected twelve out of them in assisting him to realize this task; first, to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (cf. Matt. 10:1-7), and secondly to the ends of the earth (cf. Matt. 28:18-20). Today’s gospel reflects the loving heart of the prodigal Father in the mission of Christ and in the sending of His Apostles for mission. First, Christ granted His Apostles authority over diseases, sicknesses, unclean spirits, etc., and today, we hear Him urging them: “You received without charge, give without charge… As you enter a house, salute it, and if the house deserves it, let your peace descend upon it; if it does not, let your peace come back to you.” Thus, the content of the Apostles’ preaching is expressed in the statements concerning peace. The Jews saluted each other, wishing each other peace (shalom). But here, there is something else; peace is attributed to the same effectiveness as the Word of God. Where peace is desired, peace happens. This peace is equivalent to the kingdom of God, to Christ, our peace (cf. Mk 5:34; Rom 5:1; Eph. 2:14, etc.). To announce peace is to announce Christ and all that He means to man.
Dear friends, in the person of Christ, God has lavished all His blessings, love, kindness, and graces towards us. We certainly don’t deserve an ounce of it, yet He doesn’t hold back, he keeps loving us even when we sin against Him; He takes pleasure in loving us lavishly as the faithful and loving Father that He is, blessing us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even before the foundations of the world. Hence, He has called us to be holy and blameless before Him in love… (cf. Ephesians 1:3-8). The only task that lies before us is to respond to the message of the Good News in love towards God and our neighbour – true conversion. Whoever peacefully welcomes the Good News, welcomes the kingdom of God and all its promises of blessings. Whoever does not accept it, excludes himself from everything (cf. Matt. 10:15). As we respond to the message of the Gospel, may our prodigal Father continually “shine His face upon us and we shall be saved,” as today’s Psalmist expresses.
© Fr. Chinaka Justin Mbaeri, OSJ
Paroquia Nossa Senhora de Fatima, Vila Sabrina, São Paulo, Brazil
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