Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 12, 2010
Ex. 32: 7 – 11, 13 – 14
I Timothy 1: 12 – 17
Luke 15: 1 – 32
The Gospel passage for this Sunday Mass contains the familiar Parable of the Prodigal Son, the younger brother who left home and squandered all of his inheritance.
Today, however, I should like to speak about the older son who stayed at home. At first glance, this young man seems to be the perfect son to his father; he is conscientious and doer everything he is told to do.
A noticeable change takes place, however, with the return of his younger brother. When the father greets the returning son and announces a celebratory dinner in his honor, the older boy shows only anger and resentment. He refuses to join the dinner party and instead, in a fit of rage, denounces his younger brother and with anger, bitterness and cynicism, reminds their father of his loyalty and obedience.
The older son is blinded to the extraordinary scene unfolding before him: his errant brother has returned home completely chastened and repentant but he will have none of it. The older son feels sorry for himself and the mask he had been wearing falls away and he is revealed as a Pharisee in the making.
Beneath all of his apparent perfection lay an attitude of self-righteousness which has become insufferable.
In our time, in the Church today, such hypocritical, self-righteous behavior is also present. It reveals itself in those Catholics who present themselves as “perfect.”
They eagerly tell us how often they pray, assist at daily Mass and all they do for others, all the while looking down on others who are not as good or holy as they.
Beware of such people. They are twenty-first Pharisees, “perfect” on the outside but filled with hypocrisy on the inside.
At Mass this morning, may we receive the Grace to learn from the mistakes of the older brother and repeat with humility the words spoken by the younger son on his return home:
“Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I no longer deserve to be called your son.”