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Tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to Jesus, but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain. –Luke 15:1–2
Ask the average churchgoer to name a parable, and chances are that they’ll say the Prodigal Son. It’s famous because it’s outrageous all the way around: the remarkably foolish younger son, the deeply scornful older son, and the astonishingly loving father. The scene is so full of colorful characters that we may fail to observe anyone else in the picture. But actually, some very significant others inhabit the space around Jesus as he tells this story. First, there are the undesirables—tax collectors and sinners, who stand in rapt attention at the many stories Jesus tells about God’s eagerness to receive us home when we fail. Yet there are also the presumed righteous in the crowds—the Pharisees and scribes. They don’t “listen”; they complain and object. Those who object to God’s compassion for those who need it may be surprised to discover that divine mercy does have limits—for them.
Who is hardest to forgive? Is anyone “unforgivable”?
LET US PRAY… God of majesty and glory, we bow down and confess our smallness before you. Humility may feel uncomfortable to wear, but it’s an accurate fit for our place in your Creation. Guide us in a life of praise that, little by little, makes the virtue of humility a joyful exercise of truth. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Image credit: Distant Shores Media/Sweet Publishing [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons