Fr John's Homily - Who’s lost and found here?

31 March 2019 | General Interest


Who’s lost and found here?

Project Compassion for Caritas Australia 

Lk 15.1-3,11-32,  Josh 5.9-12 3.1-15, 2Cor 5.17-21


Firstly, we might have a look at the Rhyme Bible version of “The Lost Boy’ also, as an alternate poetic presentation.

Haven’t we all heard this story a million times. In nearly 42 years of attempted preaching, including as a deacon, I couldn’t count the number of homilies where I’ve had to try to apply this one to life today – mine and those to whom I was and am talking! Haven’t we had enough, we might think?! This might be the first time I’ve actually put it in writing in detail, so that I can remember what I said next time it comes around, and hopefully not repeat or go around in circles too much, always a hazard for the absent-minded undisciplined preacher!!

Nevertheless, this parable is very much about the human heart. We can well appreciate and identify with the older brother’s indignation and sense of it all being more than a bit unfair, as he has been the ‘goody two shoes’ golden boy, who has done all the right things, without all the fuss associated with the return of his bad little brother, whom he might consider unforgivable from his perspective. Then we could also question the wisdom of the father and see him as a silly old man, who doesn’t understand the importance of ‘tough love’, in not refusing the young chap’s impulsive and selfish request. Could his dad not see he was going to head in the wrong direction? Then again, it is about conscience, responsibility and free will, which applies to all of us, does it not? And these are our God-given gifts to use in the right way.

So here in chapter 15 of Luke’s Gospel, we have the story of the shepherd with the lost sheep (the 1% to be found – I always remember the Year 3 Reconciliation young chap who suggested the solution might be to buy another one, instead of wasting time searching!), the woman and her lost coin (10% to be found), so a bit of gender balance here, and thirdly, the of the lost son, the indulgent but forgiving father, and, understandably jealous, big brother, which is our focus today. A further question might be “Where’s Mum?”, but Rembrandt makes up for that with his clever portrayal of the forgiving father (project picture on screen) with the big strong hairy masculine hand on the one side, and the soft gentle feminine hand on the other, reaching over the shoulders of the repentant son, formerly a very, very naughty boy, who has even plumbed the depths of desperation, even to the extent of mixing it with the pigs or the hogs at the trough, symbolic of joining the Gentiles, and losing his faith and his heritage.

Jesus’ message is pointed at the whingeing, self-righteous Pharisees and scribes, in particular, as their notion and application of compassion and mercy is inverse to the manner in which Jesus reaches out to, mixes with and welcomes, even to the extent of joining in table fellowship among, the lowest of the low, in their eyes and minds – the tax collectors, prostitutes and sinners in general, and who of us is not in the latter category at least? But, to them, Jesus was contaminating himself by associating with the wrong sort. And again, who did he think he was, given their positions of presumed prestige and power.

(As for tax collectors, it’s less personal doing it on-line! We have to concede, however unpopular tax may be, that the ATO has an important job to do. However else are the politicians going to pay for their promises with an election coming, we might hope, without too much ‘pork-barrelling’! And we might hope that the system is fairer these days, with more transparency and accountability, even though we know, the more you have, the easier it is to find loopholes in the system.)

The theme of forgiveness is allied with the attitude of repentance and desire for reconciliation, but it is notable that even before the young reprobate gets a chance to speak to the father from whom he has estranged himself, the silly undignified old man is out there looking and hoping, then running towards the returning son. Significant is the fact that there is a merciful and forgiving heart awaiting him, even before he humbly seeks a low paid job as one of the servants, not seeking his former position as a son. (Scripture scholar Raymond Brown says this gesture is important for understanding the concept of Christian love, undeserved forgiveness, with that step further taken first). Then the rejoicing at his return and the undeserved reward of the feast is a great big bonus.

This parable ends open-ended, with the unanswered question of whether big brother comes to the party or not? The clear message is that he should, and that the door is always open, but it is up to him, and to you and me to respond, however out of joint our noses might be, with some degree of natural understandable envy and resentment. How often do we feel this way. Perhaps that’s something we all need to work on, to help us appreciate the God of love, forgiveness and mercy whom Jesus proclaims and reveals along the path of his journey to Jerusalem and beyond, as we prepare to commemorate his passion, death and rising to new life at Easter.

The call to participate in God’s love and joy comes through Jesus who finds us, forgives us calls us back to celebrate his love and forgiveness, delighting in our company, despite our flaws, and to have another chance again and again and again!

And here is this week’s Project Compassion story, even closer to home than the Solomon Islands of last week, concerning indigenous communities in the Northern Territory and the need for local dialysis services, supported by Caritas Australia.


john hannon    30th March 2019


To read more of Fr John's homilies click here

john hannon    30th March 2019