So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him.
(Luke 15:20 NRSV)
I think that those people who look down their noses when others are celebrating may be in for a bit of a shock in terms of eternity. Amidst the trials and tribulations of his Earthly ministry, Jesus took part in joyful feasts and celebrations, and spoke of them to others.
To love is, yes, to bear the pain of love and the possibility that love will be rejected or abused; but it is to do so with a deep and almost visceral joy which will burst out into celebration when the opportunity arises.
The parable of the wayward (prodigal) son who abuses his father’s love is a shocking story of the triumph of love over all that would destroy it. It is, of course, a parable of God’s love for his creation, showing a deep insight into human nature: and it begins with a statement about joy in heaven when we turn and acknowledge our relationship with God.
In the story the youngest son commits a whole list of offences which would have rendered him a complete outcast in may people’s eyes. Yet his father waits patiently in the hope that, one-day, he will return, and is overwhelmed with joy when he does. A great celebration is called for.
The older son, meanwhile, has been bearing a grudge for years and his “righteous anger” bursts out at the news that his brother has returned and that his father has forgiven him.
Many of the parable’s hearers would share the older brother’s indignation, and even consider the father’s actions to be weak or unfair.
But the father’s love for both his sons is undimmed, and both are invited to the party.
The truth is that God’s love for us does not depend on our “worthiness,” but upon the fact that we are his children.
How do you respond to that? Why not come and join the party?
so often you teach of God’s love;
so often I feel unworthy of that love.
Yet I know that I am loved
despite my many failings,
and you have shown that to be true.