When we hear the word extravagant, I believe we tend to think in negative terms, that someone goes beyond reasonable or moderate in terms of wishes, demands and/or passions. We may think of the ultra-rich who go beyond normal means to satisfy a certain lifestyle. Admittedly we do not know the hearts and minds of all people and how in turn they may be very generous in their charitable works, supporting significant causes to end hunger, or reduce the incidence of malaria, or some other scourge in our world. I think stereo typically we believe the materially extravagant, person is selfish rather than selfless.
On this Fourth Sunday of Lent, we hear about extravagance in a very pleasing way, God is extravagant or prodigal, a synonym for extravagant when God extends mercy and compassion to the sinner. God’ mercy, unlike our own at times, is incredibly generous. Saint Paul tells us that we are reconciled in Christ so that we might try and imitate him. Similarly, in the very well-known Gospel parable in response to the Pharisees and Scribes complaint that Jesus ate with sinners, he tells the story of the Prodigal Father. In this story, a son requests his share of the inheritance and without question, his Father accedes to his request.
With his inheritance the son goes away and seems to demonstrate some foolish inclinations and does the unthinkable for his culture, leaves home for a distant country all the while, the Father is waiting…waiting…waiting for his son to come home. Though the father doesn’t send word for him, send someone after him, hire a go-between, he patiently waits. When he finally sees the son, aware that his son is repentant, he welcomes him with open arms and a measure of extravagance, holds a feast to welcome him home. How much more is God willing to forgive the sinner, welcome us back and reconcile us. Let us give thanks that God is forever extravagant with his love and mercy.
Lenten Blessings – Father Larry