“His Father ordered his servants, ‘Quickly bring the finest robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Take the fattened calf and slaughter it. Then let us celebrate with a feast…’”
In the parable of the lost son (Lk. 15), the father welcomes his younger son back with open arms. This is the son who asked for his inheritance early and left his father behind to pursue his own selfish ends. It is for this son that the father throws a party.
Like the father, Jesus embraces those who have left God behind to pursue their own desires. And that is a great gift to us. We, the church, are like that younger son. Each one of us has chosen to leave God behind in some way. Jesus welcomes us to the divine feast. That’s grace.
But grace doesn’t stop there. The grace of God’s mercy cannot be contained. If celebrating our own salvation becomes all we do, we have turned salvation into another selfish goal. We have owned it and forgotten that it is a gift. It is true that we have been included in the Father’s feast, but God’s mercy flows beyond our selfishness.
Like the servant in the parable, God’s grace empowers us to prepare the feast. When God’s mercy touches a human heart, we, the church, are there to rejoice and celebrate. We aid the repentant sinner and embrace them, showing them a new way of life. That’s grace. But God’s grace doesn’t stop there.
Imagine the end of the parable. The elder son is standing alone while the party continues inside. He hears the joy and laughter but can’t bring himself to go in. Imagine the younger son coming out of the party to embrace him. He and the father listen to him and meet him in the midst of his anger and pain. After hearing him out, they apologize for their own failings and invite him in to share the feast. That’s grace.
God’s grace has been poured into our hearts…. but it doesn’t stop there. It has been given to us to be shared.
Lincoln A. Wood