Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

September 15, 2019

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, Numbers tells a story of Moses’ intervention to save the people from God’s wrath. It is a story of God’s relenting … a theme which repeats itself endlessly in the Hebrew Scriptures.

This is the way we sometimes characterize the astonishment of Grace – God’s overwhelming passion to love and forgive us over and over. We just can’t imagine such mercy, such infinite generative love!

And so we imagine instead that Moses made God do it!😉 Yeah, I don’t think so.

We imagine that God cannot tolerate our sinful pursuits because we cannot tolerate them in ourselves or in others. But God is mercy, forgiveness, reconciliation, wholeness, love. God can’t help loving us!

Of course, we shouldn’t be stupid and take advantage of the divine largesse… not because it would hurt God, but because it so damages us and limits our capacity for wholeness. But nevertheless, whether we’re stupid or not, God will always welcome us home.

A few days ago, we prayed with the word splancha – that “gut love” that so describes God’s passion for us. We find the word again today in the heart-wrenching parable of the Prodigal Son.

prodigal son

You know the story. Near the end, as the devastated son returns seeking mercy…

While he was still a long way off,
his father caught sight of him,
and was filled with compassion — with splancha – esplanchnisthē
Luke 15:20

Our God is a Love that is filled, overflowing – with no room for retribution or condemnation.

Indeed, our God, like the Prodigal Father, is soft-hearted, an easy mark, a pushover for our sincere repentance, trust, and hope. Our God would bleed for us!

This short but powerful scene from George Balanchine’s ballet, Prodigal Son, may inspire our prayer today. The father is steadfast, a monolith of strength and love. The son is broken, naked in his desperation. Let their magnetic reunion take you to God’s heart. Let God wrap you too in the mantle of Love for any hurt or emptiness that is within you.

George Balanchine “Prodigal Son” – Final Scene (Son- Barishnikov)

 

Claude Debussy also wrote a beautiful piece on this parable. If you have a contemplative space sometime this week, you may want to listen to Debussy’s moving opera (with my all-time fav Ms. Jessye Norman.)

Click here for full opera

If you have only a little time, do try this – short, and oh so beautiful!

Music: Debussy The Prodigal Son – Prelude

4 thoughts on “A Prodigal Love

  1. We read in Exodus that “God ‘relented’ in the ‘punishment’ he had threatened to inflict on his people.” We have the softer translation here taken from the New American Bible. The original English translations read ‘repented’ and ‘evil’ which are literal translations of the Hebrew Bible. Sounds kind of harsh and inapplicable to an immutable and a good and loving God. However, The verb “repent” in Hebrew is nacham which means ‘to have compassion’ and the Hebrew word for “evil” is ra which means ‘suffering’. (There is no Hebrew word for evil in the sense of meaning bad.) The Israelites, therefore, would have suffered justly if God had punished them for their idolatry. But God relented out of compassion not to inflict any punishment on his people. The father felt the same way towards his prodigal son. He had just cause to punish or disown him, but because of his compassion and great love for him, he welcomed him with open arms. I bet it must have been hard for the father to let go while hugging and kissing his son. This parable most clearly illustrates who God essentially is: Love.

    Liked by 2 people

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