Exodus 32:7-14; 1 Timothy 1:12-17; Luke 15:1-32 The Golden Calf and the Prodigal Son

Last week’s readings tell the stories of the chosen people rejecting their God because they wanted the world to be different than it is, thus creating and believing in a false God. Christians, Jews, and Moslems still do these things leading to Crusades, Crucifixions and Stonings, Jihads, and other wars.
The forty years in the desert was remembered as a purifying journey, but the Israelites rebelled. Their anger at God, their suffering, and remembering what they had given up caused them to reject everything that God had given them. They became hard hearted and stiff necked, unwilling to listen to anyone but their deep seeded emotions. They were saved only by the love of Moses and the love of God. God thus treated them mercifully and they eventually entered the promised land.
Paul describes himself in his zeal to become a good Jews as arrogant, blasphemes, and stiff necked, because he trusted Judaism and the law to be the salvation of the world thus doing horrible things including murder. But he was saved by the love of Jesus and the early Christians. He was treated with mercy and became the great Apostle to the Gentiles and is revered to this day.
In the gospel, Jesus has to suffer the hardness of heart of the Pharisees and the Scribes. It was hardness of heart that got him killed. The hardness of heart is against the Tax Collectors and the Prostitutes. I remember seeing a former prostitute in Rockwell Gardens. She ran up to me, gave me a hug, and told me that she was in church and did not prostitute any more. She also told me that she had never been happier.
Jesus states that Tax Collectors, Prostitutes, and even Gang Bangers will enter the “Kingdom of God” before the Pharisees or even practicing Christians. It is not that prostitution, gang banging, drugs, infidelity, and murder lead to the “Kingdom of God.” It is because the suffering becomes so great that sinners turn to God in order to turn their lives around.
The prodigal son in today’s gospel doesn’t return to his father because he had fun, but because his suffering got to be so bad. The Father doesn’t pray for his son because he is jealous of his son for having a good time and he is left with more work. The Father worries for his son because he knows that his son will eventually be hurt and hurt others. Still the squandered fortune forever hurts him. The son is saved by the love and the mercy of the Father.
Practicing Christians often harden our hearts against those who act like the prodigal son and break the values we hold dear. We want rewards for doing the right thing and following the rules. We think it is unfair that we suffer, while believing that sinners get what they deserve or worse they do not seem to suffer for their sins. In the end, we are called to love and have mercy.
The difference between the two sons in the story is that the older one did not have to eat and sleep with the pigs. In the end we will be judged on how we acted when our hearts began to harden. Will we become hard hearted and stiff necked? Or will we act with love and mercy?

About Brothers and Sisters of Love

The Mission of Brothers and Sisters of Love is to be a visible sign of Jesus’ Love, Peace, and Presence to the poor in gang-infested neighborhoods in Chicago and to be a bridge between gangs & the poor with the Church. This is done by: 1. Loving everyone 2. Trusting in God 3. Forgiving everyone everything 4. Never being afraid.
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