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Father Muench Says...

These parables show how God loves us

Sept. 25, 2019

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

The Gospel readings for the last few Sundays have centered on the parables of Jesus. Today, I would like to share with you some thoughts about Jesus’ parables.

It is important to keep in mind that these parables are stories – brilliant stories crafted by Jesus to teach us, the disciples of all ages. These incidents did not happen. Jesus wanted to teach his disciples about God and the important of our relationship with the Lord. These parables are about us, also. When we understand this, we realize more about how God wants to enter our lives. This is our faith. This is grace.

Christians have been reading and discussing these parables from the time of Jesus. Interestingly, many college literature courses include the reading of a couple of Jesus’ parables – obviously, not to teach religion, but to investigate good literature. Let us consider a few examples of these parables. I know you are familiar with these stories.

The Lost Sheep – in this parable, Jesus tells a story about a unique shepherd. This shepherd is willing to leave many sheep and go searching for a stray, one lost sheep. When he finds that sheep, he is so happy, he celebrates with his neighbors. I believe an ordinary shepherd would not do this. He would worry something might happen to the main group of the flock. Now we know that in his parables, Jesus wants us to see God. God is willing to search for us if we stray.

I once wondered why God might leave all those righteous to search for the stray. That was because I thought I was among the righteous. As I got older, I began to realize that often I was the stray. I was the one who separated myself from God. I was the one who often failed to live well. Now, I realize I am very grateful to God, who is willing to search for me, who is anxious about me. God is ready to reach out to help me change my life and find the Lord’s peace and love.

The Prodigal Son – I am certain you remember the story. Jesus tells us about this compassionate father whose younger son demands his inheritance while still young. The son then lives badly and wastes everything. He then repents and returns home. And this compassionate father in the story runs out to meet him and welcomes him home and celebrates his return.

This is a parable of Jesus. We know it is about God. Our God is like the father in the story. We could imagine some fathers who would not accept the son back, but not our God. He is like the father in the story. I believe that each time I come to God, especially in moments of repentance for my sins, God runs out to welcome me. I further believe that each time we, disciples of the Lord, enter a church to pray, God does run out to welcome us.
Now Jesus adds another concern to this parable – the case of the older son, who is annoyed that his father has welcomed the prodigal home with a celebration. The father in the story anxiously tries to encourage this older son to change his attitude toward the prodigal and to become more loving and compassionate like his father.

Personally, I think of welcoming back to Church persons who have, for various reasons, given up on God and with the Church. God urges us all – priests, yes, but also members of parishes – to welcome loving these present-day prodigals just as the father in the story welcomed his prodigal. Each Sunday we say, “all are welcome,” whether newcomers or returning prodigals. I know that there have been times when I was the prodigal.

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