By this point in the Gospel the religious leaders and elders of the people have become increasingly displeased at the type of people that Jesus has been hanging out with and eating with -- sinners and tax collectors, the sick, the poor and the marginalized, the lost and “outsiders”.
Aware of their anger he tells three short stories, each one designed to drive home exactly why he is doing what he is doing... attempting to reorient their understanding of who the sinner, the tax collector, the lost and outsiders really are in the eyes of God. He is trying to tell them that God’s love, mercy and forgiveness is for everyone. It is not held back from anyone regardless of their actions or status in life! Arguably, the best known of these three stories is “the prodigal son” and with good reason as it is so jarring to our sense of what is right and what is fair.
Each of the three main characters has an insight into human relationships or our relationship with God. But for me what always seems to take center stage are the lavish actions of the father.
His love for his child is so great that it overpowers any other feelings that he might have had of disappointment, sadness, or anger. They are all completely overpowered and blown away by
his love for his child and his “thrill” at his child’s return!
And that is what Jesus is trying to get across to the Pharisees and religious leaders...that God’s love for us is so great that there is nothing that can hold it back from being poured out upon each one of us regardless of how great a “sinner” we may be!
God’s forgiveness is LAVISHED upon us. The real challenge for us is to accept it and “live like the forgiven”. And, in turn, to lavishly offer our love and forgiveness to others!
Imagine what the world might look like if all of us throughout the world who claim to be disciples of Jesus were “lavish” in our love of the marginalized, “the lost”, the refugee and the immigrant... how different the world’s humanitarian crises might look.
Imagine if we lavished our love on those who are different from us -- different by the color of their skin, different by their politics or religion or country of origin or sexual orientation or gender or age or economic status. Imagine if we were all lavish with our love and forgiveness towards everyone...imagine what the world would look like, imagine what your life would be like!
A couple questions to ponder this week: What would I need to let go of or begin to do to better “live like the forgiven”? Who are the lost or the outsiders in my neighborhood, my school, my family and who most need me to lavish love and forgiveness upon them and let them know how much God loves them, just as they are?