Tag Archives: Gospel of Luke

Sunday Sermon: The prodigal son

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Over the years, I have written more than 130 pieces under the topic of Faith. Each of those articles are slowly being re-introduced in this newly formatted website, available by visiting that section of the tool bar.

There have also been more than 70 pieces within a special ‘Sunday Sermon’ series. Those articles specifically come out on Sundays. The most recent piece in the series and on faith topics in general came all the way back in January 2018.

Today’s article marks a return to both the topic and the series. You can look for future ‘Sunday Sermon’ pieces at least every other Sunday from here on out.

Catholics who attend Mass around the world today heard one of the most famous teachings of Jesus. Coming from the New Testament’s Book of Luke, it was the Parable of the Prodigal Son.

Basically, the parable goes like this:

A wealthy man has two sons. The younger one goes to him and asks for his inheritance. The father grants his wish, and that son goes off to squander his newfound fortune by living a hedonistic lifestyle, eventually becoming destitute.

That is the very meaning of the word, by the way. Prodigal means to spend money or resources freely and recklessly in a wasteful and often extravagant manner.

In the parable, a famine hits the land. That young son, now poor and ashamed, hires himself out as a laborer. His new master sends the young man out into the fields to tend the hogs, where the young man is so hungry that he wishes he could eat at least what was being fed to the animals.

Then it dawned on the young man that his own father’s servants were treated better than this. They had plenty to eat. So, he decides to return home, beg forgiveness, and hopefully be hired as a servant by his father.

While all that was happening, the older son had remained at home, working hard to help the father maintain his estate. In fact, that older son was out working on the land one day as the younger son suddenly returned home.

As the father was informed of the younger son’s return after many months away, he ran out to enthusiastically greet his son with a warm hug and kiss.

The young son said to his father “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.

But the father would have none of it. He ordered his servants to prepare a great feast for this returned prodigal son, saying “this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.

As the feast was taking place, the older son returns from working hard all day. He saw one of the servants, who informed him as to what was happening.

The older son then confronted the father:

All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!

The father responds:

My son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.  But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.

There are many lessons that can be learned from this wonderful parable. But one of the most important is a reminder from Jesus that, no matter how far away we may have strayed in our lives, our Father is always waiting with open arms to welcome us back.

In the story, this is an earthly father welcoming back his son, who had learned a difficult lesson the hard way. How many of us can fully relate? Probably every single one of us.

But more important is that you should know that, no matter how long you have been away from the Lord, no matter how far away you may have strayed, you can always turn around and come back.

The decision is yours. If you haven’t prayed in awhile, set a few moments aside, and say a prayer asking for help. If you have been away from church, give it another chance. If you have turned your back on God, turn back towards Him.

He will always be there with outstretched arms, waiting happily to welcome you back, just as that father did with his young son in Jesus’ parable.

The two millenium miracle

What do you believe about Christmas? At this time of year, billions of people on the planet are celebrating the birth of a baby that happened over two milleniums ago in a small town in what we know today as the Middle East.

Have you ever stopped to ask a simple question, one that would appear to be logical? That question would be, why?

Let’s take a trip back in time. We’ll make it a reality trip, one that journeys into the real world of those days and a few more over the ensuing centuries. Starting in first century Bethlehem in Judea, we find it dry and hot. No one exchanged Christmas cards. There were no trees being decorated. No one wore a crucifix around their neck.

Depending on whatever you choose to believe, on one mostly quiet night a teenage girl gave birth in a room, or a cave, or a barn, or a stable. Her child was a son, and she and her older carpenter fiancee would eventually take this child home with them to Nazareth and raise him through boyhood and adolescence into early manhood.

As a man, he would eventually become a preacher and a teacher, extolling men to love one another. Many of his teachings would run counter to the religious and political powers of the day, and he and his followers would eventually be seen as dangerous. He was taken into custody and ultimately killed by crucifixion, typical of political prisoners of Rome in those days.

There is little to suggest on the surface that there is anything special about this story. Baby born in a small town in the middle of nowhere to a teenage single mother grows up to become a somewhat popular preacher and is crucified as thousands of others were who also dared to stand up against the powers-that-be of the day.

In the aftermath of his death, his dozen or so closest followers are afraid for their own lives. They deny knowing him and go into hiding. Over the next few decades they will argue among and splinter apart from one another over how he actually would want them to remember him and continue to spread the word.

A few centuries after his death, with all of those original followers long dead and gone, the mother of a Roman ruler suddenly begins to believe, manages to convert her son, and the once obscure belief system becomes mainstream. What has become known as ‘Christianity’ grows and spreads.

Over the next 1,600 years the ‘Church’ of these followers in the teachings of Jesus Christ will explode around the world and across history in numbers of believers, material wealth, and influence. It is estimated that today there are well over 200 million Christians in America, over 76% of the entire population of the United States.

Around the world today there are more than two billion Christians. One out of ever three people on the planet believe in the deity of that small baby born to that unwed teenage mother in that small town over two thousand years ago. How do you account for that, other than divinely inspired and shepherded miracle?

No matter what the actual day and date may have been, tonight we celebrate the birth of that small boy child. Few could possibly have realized it at the time, but the child born that night in those humble circumstances would be an undeniable light unto the world.

So back to the original question that I asked. What do you believe about Christmas? If you celebrate it, but don’t believe in Jesus Christ, then why do you celebrate it? Because everyone else does? That’s pretty lame of you.

If you don’t celebrate it, then how do you account for the miracle of these past two millenium? How do you account for more than 2 billion adherents today? Mass hysteria?

The purpose here was to challenge you to think about not only Christmas, but the particular origination of the holiday, the ‘reason for the season’, the actual birth of Jesus Christ.

Think about how that small child grew into a man about whom it can be legitimately claimed has changed and influenced the world more than any other that ever walked the face of the earth.

The two millenium miracle continues to grow and spread today. Despite constant and increasing attacks on the celebration of Christmas here in America, it cannot be erased from the public consciousness.

The reason that Christianity has grown and spread and continues to do so against the forces of secularism, radical Islam, and other sworn enemies is a simple one: it is Truth. Merry Christmas.

Christmas thanks to a young mother

We began to celebrate the Christmas season over the past week, the celebration of the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Providing for humanity to be saved by God taking on a human role, however, required first a perfect vessel to deliver that physical birth to the earth.

In his gospel, Saint Luke tells us the story of how the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary saying “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee! Blessed art thou among women!” Gabriel was sent by God Himself to the teenage virgin who had been chosen as being worthy of body, mind, and spirit to bear the Lord in her womb, give birth to the infant, and be responsible for raising Him as a child.

At the point at which Mary is presented with the idea of becoming the Mother of God, she has a choice. Mary’s body wasn’t taken over by God, she was not forced to take on this responsibility. She was not herself bred for this sole purpose. She was a normal, young, human woman.

One thing that we know about human beings in their relationship to God is that we have been given a ‘free will’, the ability to make our own choices and decisions. We have the choice to accept or reject God and His plan for the world and for us as individuals. Mary was given this same choice, and she chose to say “Yes” to God.

This is not at all the same idea of ‘choice’ involving a pregnancy that has become a hot political and social topic in todays world. In todays arguments, the ‘choice’ is not between becoming pregnant or not, in having a child or not. Today the alleged ‘choice’ is between killing a baby that is already in a mothers womb, or of delivering that baby fully and allowing it a chance at a full life.

What a brief look at the difference between Mary’s very real choice and that of women today in the abortion debate does highlight is the idea of consequence.

If a woman today chooses to continue her pregnancy, she is allowing the natural process to go forward, and allowing another human being an opportunity at a full life. If she chooses to kill the baby, the baby is dead and has no chance at life.

What would the consequences have been for humanity had Mary said “No” to God? Could anyone have blamed her? She was, after all, just a teenager, already engaged to be married to an older man. How would she explain the pregancy to her fiancee’, to her family, to her community? Would anyone, even the most ardent of believers in the idea that God would one day send a Savior, believe her story?

At the point that she made her choice, Mary did not know that God would send his angel to Joseph in order to ease his own mind. In fact, she had no idea exactly what God’s ultimate plan would be for the baby as He grew into adulthood and beyond. Would God have moved on to another young woman? Would God have delayed his plan for mankind’s salvation for years, decades, generations?

All of that is pure speculation, of course. But considering the idea that Mary had a choice, and that Mary said that “Yes” to God, provides us with an example. During this Christmas season more than any other, God is calling us all to say “Yes” to Him and to His Son, Jesus Christ. Every one of us now has the same choice as given to Mary.

Over the next few weeks most of us will be pretty active in preparing for the Christmas holiday. We will be shopping for toys, games, and gifts for family members and friends. We will be decorating our homes. We will be buying food and cleaning our houses in preparation for parties, guests, family gatherings. We will be taking pictures and wrapping presents and attending parties at which we will drink too much.

How much time will you take over these next few weeks to consider the reason that all of this is happening? How much time will you be taking to think about the birth of Mary’s baby, your Savior, Jesus Christ? Will you give him an hour every Sunday? Will you give him an hour or so on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day? Are you willing to give Him even that little bit? Is that even enough?

Maybe all of those gift, decoration, and party considerations should really be secondary considerations for us. Perhaps we should be thinking about Mary’s initial decision to choose to accept Jesus into her life, and about Jesus’ ultimate gift to all of us in his death for our sins.

I hope and pray that during this Christmas season while doing all of the fun things in today’s commercial world, we truly keep with us at all times that ‘reason for the season’, the welcoming in to the world of the infant baby Jesus, and give thanks to a young mother who made the right choice two thousand years ago.

Conspiracy, betrayal, denial

We are now just three weeks away from Easter Sunday, which along with Christmas Day is the celebration of one of the two greatest events in the history of mankind.

On that day of Easter we will celebrate the great victory of Jesus Christ over death, his rising from the grave into which he entered as a repentance for the sins of man.

But besides that sin for which his death was payment, there was a human process of actual conspiracy and betrayal that served as the mechanization leading to his crucifixion. And near that end there were a series of denials from his most beloved and respected friend and follower.

As the Bible tells it in the New Testament gospel of Luke, with the Passover festival about to begin the chief priests and scribes were looking for a way to put him to death. They feared Jesus’ popularity among the people, and that many of his teachings were outside the bounds, some directly in conflict with, the tenets of the Jewish faith.

The Gospel of Matthew tells that they assembled in the palace of the high priest, Caiaphas, and consulted on how best to effect his arrest and eventual execution. Their initial plan was to have this plot carried out after the festival was over, because as both Matthew and Mark tell us, they feared “a riot among the people”, such was Jesus’ popularity.

Their plots against him came together more suddenly than they wanted because, the fact is, they were not in charge of things. As Luke tells it, Satan “entered into” one of Jesus’ twelve disciples, Judas Iscariot, who approached the temple guards and the chief priests with an offer to betray Jesus and turn him over to them in exchange for money.

When the chief priests agreed to pay Judas the price of 30 pieces of silver, the conspiracy was in place. Judas began to seek an opportunity to lead them to Jesus when there would be no crowds around to cause a disturbance.

When the time came to celebrate the Passover meal, Jesus gathered with his disciples in the large upper room at the home of a Jerusalem man who was a supporter of their group. During the meal, Jesus instituted the Sacramental expression of the sharing of His body and blood.

In breaking bread and passing it among his friends he said “This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me.” After they ate, the Lord then took the cup of wine and said to them “This cup is the new covenant of my blood, which will be shed for you.”

As they further celebrated the meal, an argument broke out among them as to who was the greatest of Jesus’ followers. Rather than select anyone of them, Jesus instead told them that true greatness comes not from lording it over others, but through service, saying “I am among you as the one who serves.”

When his closest follower and dearest friend, Simon Peter, told Jesus that he was prepared to go to prison and die for him, Jesus replied that “Before the cock crows this day, you will deny three times that you know me.”

Jesus also told his twelve friends that one of them sitting among their group would betray him saying “It would be better for that man if he had never been born.”

As we know through history, late that very night while the rest of Jesus’ followers slept in the garden at Gethsemane at the foot of the Mount of Olives, Judas saw the opportunity to turn him over. He led a group of soldiers to that location, approached Jesus, and identified him to the soldiers by kissing Jesus on the cheek.

Jesus was taken into custody and brought before the Sanhedrin, the council of elders, chief priests and scribes who would begin the process of a sham legal proceeding leading to his death.

While Jesus was in custody, three different times that day his friend Peter was approached and accused of being one of Jesus’ followers, and all three times Peter denied that it was so, just as Jesus had foretold.

As the celebrations of Easter approach we should all be reminded of these moments when the very Savior of mankind was conspired against, betrayed, and denied by his very closest friends and followers.

We need to remember that while our friends and family are important, no one is beyond Satan’s grasp, and no one is beyond doing the exact same thing to each of us.

In the end, we hope to count on the people in our lives at the most important moments. But the fact is that in the end the only one whom we can really count on is Jesus Christ himself.

Jesus was the one who stayed faithful to us. He is the one who went to the cross so that your sins would be forgiven. He was the one who suffered and died for each of you reading this.

Do not turn your back on him as his followers did. Use the approach of this holy and blessed season to set your lives on a path that draws you closer to Jesus Christ.

God and country

Of course it’s purely a hypothetical question if you live in America or most any free nation, but if you simply had to make a choice, which would you choose: God, or country?

If you’re someone who is among the tiny minority of Americans who doesn’t believe in God to begin with, it’s an easy question. And if you’re one of those who loves God completely but has little faith or confidence in any government, then it’s probably an easy choice for you as well.

But the vast majority of Americans would find this a difficult question with which to wrestle. Your first inclination would be to say something like “There’s no way that would ever happen here in the U.S., so I don’t even have to worry about it.” Perhaps true.

When the United States of America publicly issued its Declaration of Independence on July 4th, 1776, the document began:

When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them…” 

The Declaration goes on to famously state:

 “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” 

The document, written by Thomas Jefferson, was signed with affirment by him, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and leaders from all 13 original colonies. So the United States at its founding was a nation of believers.

Then in what is commonly known as the ‘Bill of Rights’, the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1791 guaranteed “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

What the authors were striving for was tolerance, not abolition of religion from society. So you would seem to have a pretty solid backing to believe that you shouldn’t ever have to worry about being forced to make such a choice.

But the fact is, those words were written and spoken in the past, and we are talking about a hypothetical future. Think it can’t happen in actuality? Then you simply haven’t been paying attention to the history of the world.

One thing that you can most certainly count on in the future is change, and for anyone to say they know where that change is going to take us in the next few centuries, even just in the next few decades, would be extremely presumptuous and naive. So just play along. Something happens, and you are forced to make that choice: God or country.

The likely way such a choice would come is from the country end of things. Some entity coming to power and telling you that you may worship no God, or must worship some particular version of God, or else you have to leave the country (or worse.)

In the Bible, the last years of mankind on earth are filled with this type of individual, personal decision in the Book of Revelation. You will be forced to choose between God and the ruling power manifest by Satan, and the immediate price of choosing incorrectly will be your life.

In his own life, Jesus Christ spoke of the relevance of government in the Gospel of Luke: “Give to the emperor the thing’s that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s“. This famous ‘render unto Caesar’ statement shows that the Lord understood and supported that there was a need for government of men by men.

I would say that if you are ever forced into such a choice, then you only have one decision to make – choose God.

That means even if you have to die for your choice. Because no government worth living in would force such a choice on you, and none is worth the price of your immortal and eternal soul.

Now for some, the choice might come from God Himself. For reasons only he may fully appreciate, you may be called to some action or to take some position that runs counter to that of your official American government position.

And when I say ‘called’, I mean ‘called by God’ in a manner that leaves you no doubt as to the origin of the call to action. In that case, you most certainly need to choose to do or say whatever it is that God is calling you to. There is every probability that His reasons go to a message that He wants delivered through you to the rest of mankind.

The bottom line is that you should always choose God over country. The simple reason is that your country, the United States of America, was formed with the blessings of God and inspired by His Word. God came first, His will and power are greater.

You will be subject to the laws, rules, customs, and opinions of your countrymen for a few decades. You will answer to God for eternity. So while there is no choice to make, while America remains a God-fearing, God-loving nation in most hearts, continue to fight with everything that is in you and pray with everything you have that this status continues.

But if one day the situation changes, and it all falls apart, be sure that you are ready to make the right decision. The correct choice will always be the choice for God.