NEXT SUNDAY’S GOSPEL: LUKE 17: 5-10
TWENTY-SEVENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
USCCB LINK to all three readings
The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.”
The Lord replied,
“If you have faith the size of a mustard seed,
you would say to this mulberry tree,
‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.
“Who among you would say to your servant
who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field,
‘Come here immediately and take your place at table’?
Would he not rather say to him,
‘Prepare something for me to eat.
Put on your apron and wait on me while I eat and drink.
You may eat and drink when I am finished’?
Is he grateful to that servant because he did what was commanded?
So should it be with you.
When you have done all you have been commanded,
say, ‘We are unprofitable servants;
we have done what we were obliged to do.’”
Joel Green, in his commentary (see home page), points out that the early verses of Chapter 17 are a pause in Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem as he takes stock of identifying just who are the true disciples who will enter the kingdom. This is an appropriate time to ask such questions: consider that this Sunday’s Gospel is well into Luke’s text, and the time of the final showdown is coming perilously close. Even the Catholic Calendar reflects growing urgency: next Sunday is the 27th of the 34 Sundays of Ordinary time. The end game is not far off.
The immediate text prior (Luke 17: 1-4) is not read at the Sunday liturgy, but it begins this section with an indictment of precisely who will not be entering the Kingdom of God. This brief text includes the scandalizers (“It would be better for you if a millstone were hung around your neck and you were cast into the sea”) and those who fail to rebuke sinners and, on the other hand, refuse to forgive them. Our text for consideration begins with Luke 17:5, where a question is posed to the Lord by the Apostles. Titles are very important interpretive keys in Biblical study. Jesus did not refer to his intimate follower as Apostles; his preferred appellation was “The Twelve,” the new fathers of the restored twelve tribes of Israel brought to bear by Jesus’ offering of himself on the cross. The term apostle is most likely an early Church term for those who walked with Jesus, and more importantly, witnessed the resurrected Christ. St. Paul feels free to call himself an Apostle because of the appearance of Jesus on his journey to Damascus, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” (Acts 9:4) Given that Luke’s Gospel was written two generations after Christ, the use of the word “apostle” might seem anachronistic unless the term was understood in Luke’s day as a generic for those who were passing along the witness of the Resurrection, i.e., the post-apostolic generation of bishops.
The term “Lord” in 17:5 is generally understood as having divine overtones. Jesus rarely used the term “Lord” to describe himself, choosing the more apocalyptic and mysterious “Son of Man,” which we will discuss in November. The disciples themselves more often used the name “teacher” or “master;” Green, noting the disciples’ request for faith, observes that the word “faith” is used only five times in Luke’s Gospel, but always with an eye to “faithful behavior.” The sentence then is a solemn request to God’s Son for greater strength and fervor in living faithfully as disciples in the final times. One can almost imagine that the Christians in Luke’s audience, particularly the leaders (bishops), were praying for right knowledge in time of trial.
In response to this request of the apostles, the Lord Jesus (divine) tells them that even a smidgen of faith would enable them to do even greater things than they have seen Jesus do. Jesus performed miraculous deeds, to be sure, but none with quite the optics of a giant mulberry tree animating itself and jumping into the Sea of Galilee. Green has an interesting comment here, noting that “Jesus’ reply cast doubt on whether his apostles have yet even this much faith, the smidgen.” But at least the apostles, in their poverty, know enough to turn to the Lord for help. The Pharisees and the crowd at large do not do even this much. (p. 613) The question of entering the kingdom of God continues to loom large, and as Luke’s narrative continues, it would seem that the “circle of salvation” continues to constrict.
Green’s commentary is of great assistance in understanding the following example of the householder and his slave. He explains that in modern day English the term “thanks” does not have the meaning it had in Jesus’ day, when “thanks” implied an indebtedness. In our text here, Jesus asks whether a slave, in the performance of his everyday duties, is owed a thanks for preparing his master’s dinner. Jesus answers his own question in the negative, to the point of actually providing the appropriate script: “we are unprofitable servants: we have done what we were obliged to do.” Jesus’ answer appears cold until one remembers that “thanks” in his day was a literary phrase meaning “you owe me a favor.” No owner would ever find himself with indebtedness toward his slave in the mores of Jesus’ day.
What is Jesus’ intent here, or what is he teaching? The best answer seems to be his insistence that no one can make a special claim on God, or bring God into one’s own debt, even by the act of performing good deeds or meeting obligations. God owes nothing to anyone; more to the point, God owes admission to his kingdom to no one. Invitation to the eternal banquet is gracious and gratuitous. Green believes that Jesus is attempting to help his disciples avoid the errors of the Pharisees, who believed that by obedience to the Law they were entitled to God’s favor. What the Pharisees considered extraordinary services “are simply the daily fare of discipleship.” (p. 615) That said, the disciples themselves had not shown themselves exempt from self-justification and honor-seeking in earlier chapters of Luke. As the timetable of deliverance is now fast approaching with Jerusalem on the horizon, Jesus decides that this was a timely moment to reinforce the identity of the true son of the kingdom. Evidently Luke, writing in the 80’s AD, felt it was time for his church to be reminded, too.
A Nasty Turn of EventsRead Now
NEXT SUNDAY’S GOSPEL: LUKE 16: 19-31
TWENTY-SIXTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
USCCB LINK to all three readings
Jesus said to the Pharisees:
“There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen
and dined sumptuously each day.
And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores,
who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps
that fell from the rich man's table.
Dogs even used to come and lick his sores.
When the poor man died,
he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham.
The rich man also died and was buried,
and from the netherworld, where he was in torment,
he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off
and Lazarus at his side.
And he cried out, 'Father Abraham, have pity on me.
Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue,
for I am suffering torment in these flames.'
‘My child, remember that you received
what was good during your lifetime
while Lazarus likewise received what was bad;
but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented.
Moreover, between us and you a great chasm is established
to prevent anyone from crossing who might wish to go
from our side to yours or from your side to ours.’
He said, ‘Then I beg you, father,
send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers,
so that he may warn them,
lest they too come to this place of torment.'
But Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets.
Let them listen to them.’
He said, ‘Oh no, father Abraham,
but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’
Then Abraham said, ‘If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets,
neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.’”
This weekend presents us with a very troubling Gospel selection in that it embodies a number of issues very close to home but rarely acknowledged—what God thinks about material inequality, the silent but real suffering of the sick and the poor, human indifference to need, the failure of organized religion, and the hard justice that awaits us all in judgment.
So where to begin? One of the first tools of Gospel study is identifying the audience of a particular teaching. The Gospels provide many settings: the crowd, the disciples, the Twelve, Peter/James/John, Samaritans, Romans, scribes and teachers of the Jewish faith, Canaanites, and Greeks come immediately to mind, and in every case the identification of the listener(s) impacts the meaning of the message. In Sunday’s Gospel, the very first phrase identifies the target audience as the Pharisees. This is hardly the only time the Pharisees appear in the Gospels. The New Jerome Biblical Commentary 1990 (p. 1243) identifies Pharisees as laymen who put particular emphasis upon education of the Torah and the many interpretations of the Law given over the years, dating back as far as the Prophet Ezra (480-440 B.C.) Salvation in the Pharisaic theory, of both individuals and the nations, rested substantially upon knowledge of the Law; this distinguished them from the Scribes, who were in fact the official lawyers of the Temple.
“Knowledge is power,” as the old saying goes, has more than a measure of truth, but knowledge without purity of heart and a contrite spirit matters little. In the case of Sunday’s Gospel, knowledge actually renders a greater culpability. In fact, if we backtrack just a few verses from the beginning of Sunday’s Gospel, look at what St. Luke has to say to the Pharisees in 16:14-15: “The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all of this [i.e. last Sunday’s Gospel on the unjust manager] and they ridiculed him. So he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of others; but God knows your hearts; for what is prized by human beings is an abomination in the sight of God.” Jesus adds a sentence about the true sacredness of the Law, and then launches into this stunning parable.
Joel Green points out the extraordinary polarities of the story. For starters, the “purple” in the rich man’s garments came from the region of Tyre at enormous expense; Lazarus, by contrast, is covered with sores, suggesting he was nearly naked. The luxuries of this rich man cannot be overstated. Jesus describes him as one who “dined sumptuously every day.” Even the father of the prodigal son only feasted on life-and-death occasions, in his case the restoration of his offspring. Lazarus longed to eat the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table, reminding us again of the starving prodigal son, who longed to eat the pig’s food but no one offered him anything. (Green, p. 607) It is hard to forget the words of the Canaanite mother to Jesus in Mark 7: 28— “Even the dogs under the table eat the family’s leavings.” The word “dog” is sometimes a reference to pagans in the Gospels; it is possible that Luke is trying to convey a picture of the pitiful Lazarus getting more sympathy or attention from dogs/pagans than this rich Jewish householder.
Which brings us to a more dramatic polarity, the ultimate destiny of each man. The rich man, as befitted his wealth, receives an honorable burial. Nothing is said of Lazarus’ final earthly disposition; most likely he would have been eaten by beasts or burned as refuse. But in this parable, when Lazarus died, he was borne by angels to the bosom of Abraham, an indication that the parable is indeed intended for the sons of Abraham, most notably the Pharisees. Jewish thinking on the nature of death was not in full agreement at the time of Jesus; the irony here is that the Pharisees were something of pioneers in their teachings on life after death and eternal reward/punishment. Jesus is turning their “considerable knowledge” back upon their heads, using their idioms to describe the horrors that awaited them.
We do indeed get a graphic close-up of the rich man’s fate. Fancy burial notwithstanding, he is now in the underworld (Hades, perhaps) where he himself is being perpetually devoured in flames. Such is his pain that in desperation he asks Abraham to send Lazarus with a fingertip of cold water to cool his tongue. The irony of seeking Lazarus’ help after the rich man’s years of studied neglect is rich. Abraham firmly explains to him the math of God’s justice. The rich man had received good things in his life and Lazarus the bad. After death and judgment, the situations will be reversed. This, as Green observes, would come as a great shock to the now suffering rich man, who still talks as if the old arrangements were in place—Abraham still his father and Lazarus, whom he knows by name but never fed him, still an unclean, sickly bum from the gutter, still there to do the man’s bidding. (Green uses the term “audacious” to describe the rich man’s request.)
The rich man, whose attitude toward Lazarus remains shamefully unchanged, now intercedes with Abraham on behalf of his relatives and friends, a continuation of the “making friends of mammon” theme from last week. And again, with pigheaded obstinacy, the rich man asks that Lazarus be sent to his brothers, presumably the same brothers who stepped over Lazarus’ withering suffering on their way to feast with their brother. Abraham’s refusal to allow such an apocalyptic appearance back home is based upon the fact that the surviving brothers always have the revelations and teachings of Moses and the prophets. Only an obtuse Pharisee would have missed Abraham/Jesus’ pointed connection to the Pharisees’ claims to be experts of the Law and the Prophets. Abraham, in effect, indicts their claims by citing their gross insensitivity to the poor and suffering.
There is one more utterance of great irony from Abraham, who states sadly but definitively that “if they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.” This text, of course, written over 50 years after Jesus’ resurrection, is an accurate reflection of what would actually happen after Easter Sunday. Many Jews—including Pharisees—did not believe that Jesus had risen from the dead, despite the preaching of the early Church that the events of Good Friday and Easter Sunday were in fact the climax of the entire Hebrew Scripture revelation.
Indeed, Sunday’s Gospel is a gut check for “believers.”
THIS SUNDAY’S GOSPEL: LUKE 16: 1-13
25th SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME
USCCB LINK TO ALL THREE READING
Jesus said to his disciples,
“A rich man had a steward
who was reported to him for squandering his property.
He summoned him and said,
‘What is this I hear about you?
Prepare a full account of your stewardship,
because you can no longer be my steward.’
The steward said to himself, ‘What shall I do,
now that my master is taking the position of steward away from me?
I am not strong enough to dig and I am ashamed to beg.
I know what I shall do so that,
when I am removed from the stewardship,
they may welcome me into their homes.’
He called in his master’s debtors one by one.
To the first he said,
‘How much do you owe my master?’
He replied, ‘One hundred measures of olive oil.’
He said to him, ‘Here is your promissory note.
Sit down and quickly write one for fifty.’
Then to another the steward said, ‘And you, how much do you owe?’
He replied, ‘One hundred kors of wheat.’
The steward said to him, ‘Here is your promissory note;
write one for eighty.’
And the master commended that dishonest steward for acting prudently.
“For the children of this world
are more prudent in dealing with their own generation
than are the children of light.
I tell you, make friends for yourselves with dishonest wealth,
so that when it fails, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.
The person who is trustworthy in very small matters
is also trustworthy in great ones;
and the person who is dishonest in very small matters
is also dishonest in great ones.
If, therefore, you are not trustworthy with dishonest wealth,
who will trust you with true wealth?
If you are not trustworthy with what belongs to another,
who will give you what is yours?
No servant can serve two masters.
He will either hate one and love the other,
or be devoted to one and despise the other.
You cannot serve both God and mammon.”
I am back after a two-day hiatus from the blog. Yesterday after a morning physical and an afternoon of breaking back into a regular, office based, therapeutic practice, this one with Catholic Charities, I honestly had nothing in the tank for the Café. I had a fine first day at the clinic—all my patients kept their appointments, and punctually—and the administrator fixed me up with a coffee maker. Now you can’t beat that. So I am looking forward to my next weeks and months. I was rather hoping for a “simple Gospel text” for next Sunday, but as you know by now, every sentence of the Bible is a challenge. So how much wheat is 100 kors?
At first glance this gospel is almost scandalous, with its central figure being an executive manager of a very large estate who conducted all the financial issues of his master and then cheated the master on the way out the door. The close and trusted relationship between master and manager was not an uncommon arrangement. There are several twists to this relationship here that Father Robert Karris observes in the New Jerome Biblical Commentary 1990 (p. 707ff). The master of a major profitable family business was also an absentee landlord who did not enjoy universal esteem among the people as a whole, for reasons we will see shortly.
At first it is unclear why, in this case, the master would turn against his manager (or “steward” in the older translations). No reason is given by Jesus, though it is important to remember that in Luke’s Gospel Jesus does not have much good to say about the rich. Joel Green reminds us that in Luke 6:24 Jesus pronounces misfortune upon the rich, and is equally critical in several other sites in this Gospel (p. 590). Jesus was well aware of how many of the rich acquired their wealth, namely through interest from money lending—long forbidden in Jewish tradition but apparently tolerated, even embraced, by entrepreneurs in Jesus’ day.
The problem with lending at the time of this Gospel was its arbitrary nature and lack of policing. Suppose that you were seeking $200,000 to buy a house. The master would lend the money, but he would calculate the interest, sometimes as much as two or three times the value of the original loan. Clearly, in Luke’s mind this was an unethical and immoral practice, since the actual contract for the loan rolled together the original amount and the projected interest amount, and this new number was also the figure on the official paperwork. The document for the $200,000 house might then read as a loan of $600,000, to use a contemporary example.
This is an important consideration for interpreting this Gospel text. The manager is not portrayed as a paragon of courage (‘to dig I am unable, to beg I am ashamed”) but he does come upon a plan of action that resonates with St. Luke’s portrait of Jesus: he would strike a blow for traditional Jewish justice, albeit his motives were mixed, to say the least. He allows his masters’ debtors to rewrite their contracts and subtract the exorbitant interest. The olive oil borrower gets a 50% rebate, the wheat man 20%. A kor of wheat, by the way, is the equivalent of 230 liters, next time you are baking.
The reaction of the master of the estate, upon learning of his manager’s largesse, has confused generations of readers (“he commended the manager for acting prudently”) but in truth there is something of con man’s respect for a better con by his opponent. The master cannot help but be impressed at how his manager—on the verge of losing everything—managed to endear himself to enough affluent borrowers to insure his own status and belonging in society.
Jesus’ commentary of the situation follows the master’s commendation of the manager’s deeds, beginning with “for the children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than the children of light.” The phrase “this world” is often contrasted with the “next world” and the final arrival of the Kingdom of God. The fact that Jesus, too, can recognize a con, and then contrast it favorably to the unimaginative conduct of the children of the light, is a testimony to the energy and verve of the faithless of this world, for whom riches represent the greatest achievement. (Green, p. 594)
When Jesus exhorts his followers to “make friends with dishonest wealth,” he is not instructing full-hearted participation in games with the “children of this age.” In the context of earlier readings on previous Sundays, Jesus in fact exhorts all to sell everything for the poor and follow him. But he seems to understand, too, that money connections were the glue of contemporary social life. Jesus’ followers are missionaries of the kingdom, and if they are to make converts, they must indeed mix with the poor and the rich. The critical difference is that they must not profit from their dealings in the way of the master and the manager described above, so that when the sands of time runs out on the children of this age, both they and their disciple witnesses can share the delights of the heavenly banquet.
NEXT SUNDAY''S GOSPEL: LUKE 15: 1-32)
TWENTY-FOURTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
USCCB Link to all three readings
Tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to Jesus,
but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying,
“This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
So to them he addressed this parable.
“What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them
would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert
and go after the lost one until he finds it?
And when he does find it,
he sets it on his shoulders with great joy
and, upon his arrival home,
he calls together his friends and neighbors and says to them,
‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’
I tell you, in just the same way
there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents
than over ninety-nine righteous people
who have no need of repentance.
“Or what woman having ten coins and losing one
would not light a lamp and sweep the house,
searching carefully until she finds it?
And when she does find it,
she calls together her friends and neighbors
and says to them,
‘Rejoice with me because I have found the coin that I lost.’
In just the same way, I tell you,
there will be rejoicing among the angels of God
over one sinner who repents.”
Then he said,
“A man had two sons, and the younger son said to his father,
‘Father give me the share of your estate that should come to me.’
So the father divided the property between them.
After a few days, the younger son collected all his belongings
and set off to a distant country
where he squandered his inheritance on a life of dissipation.
When he had freely spent everything,
a severe famine struck that country,
and he found himself in dire need.
So he hired himself out to one of the local citizens
who sent him to his farm to tend the swine.
And he longed to eat his fill of the pods on which the swine fed,
but nobody gave him any.
Coming to his senses he thought,
‘How many of my father’s hired workers
have more than enough food to eat,
but here am I, dying from hunger.
I shall get up and go to my father and I shall say to him,
“Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.
I no longer deserve to be called your son;
treat me as you would treat one of your hired workers.”’
So he got up and went back to his father.
While he was still a long way off,
his father caught sight of him,
and was filled with compassion.
He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him.
His son said to him,
‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you;
I no longer deserve to be called your son.’
But 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,
because this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again;
he was lost, and has been found.’
Then the celebration began.
Now the older son had been out in the field
and, on his way back, as he neared the house,
he heard the sound of music and dancing.
He called one of the servants and asked what this might mean.
The servant said to him,
‘Your brother has returned
and your father has slaughtered the fattened calf
because he has him back safe and sound.’
He became angry,
and when he refused to enter the house,
his father came out and pleaded with him.
He said to his father in reply,
‘Look, all these years I served you
and not once did I disobey your orders;
yet you never gave me even a young goat to feast on with my friends. But when your son returns,
who swallowed up your property with prostitutes,
for him you slaughter the fattened calf.’
He said to him,
‘My son, you are here with me always;
everything I have is yours.
But now we must celebrate and rejoice,
because your brother was dead and has come to life again;
he was lost and has been found.’”
I generally write the blog each day with a 1000-word maximum in mind, if not always in practice, so it is with no little humor that I note my “word count” for today is over 700, and I haven’t opened my mouth yet. I wonder if many parishes will read all three texts of the Gospel. The Roman Missal allows for a shortening of the sequence, such that your pastor is required to read only the parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin, omitting the epic story of the Prodigal Son and the Loving Father. I am disappointed with the editing of the Lectionary, which condones omitting the famous parable of a father’s love for two disparate offspring. However, this parable has been used in every Penance service since 1970, so it has not lacked in exposure.
The New Jerome Biblical Commentary (1990) refers to Chapter 15 as “God’s Mercy for Sinners Thrice Illustrated.” The editor of the JBC’s Lukan commentary, Father Robert Karris, O.F.M., is a scholar I had the pleasure of working with during three summers at St. Bonaventure University in the early 1970’s when I was director of liturgy for the summer masters of theology program attended by hundreds of religious sisters. Father Karris is the author of many biblical works, including Eating Your Way Through St. Luke.
Karris makes the point in his JBC contribution that Sunday’s text illustrates how “God’s mercy breaks through all human restrictions of how God should act toward sinners. God’s mercy, indeed, is as foolish as a shepherd who abandons 99 sheep…[or] as a woman who turns her house upside down to recover a paltry sum….” (p. 707) The general thrust here is that all of the main characters in Chapter 15—including the loving father—have behaved in strange ways, and that God is willing to go beyond their idiosyncrasies in winning them back to the eschatological/redemptive banquet; all three examples in Chapter 15 end with a banquet of some sort, most notably the homecoming of the wayward son.
Our “in-house” commentary from Joel Green addresses our texts with more detail. He notes, for example, that while Luke 15:1 seems to signify a shift in time and place, Chapter 15 continues Luke’s previous emphases on banquets from previous Sundays, and Chapter 16 will continue this theme with the story of the rich man and the beggar Lazarus. Green’s overall understanding seems to be the desire of Jesus that his disciples join him in mercy and rejoice at the redemption or recovery of even one lost soul.
An important thing to note in Chapter 15: 1-2 is that the term “sinner” is rather broad. Verse 1 specifically singles out toll collectors with the sinners, strongly suggesting that these “sinners” coming to listen to Jesus were not ax murderers, but individuals who did not measure up to the Pharisaic standard of cleanness. Toll collectors, for example, would routinely handle Gentile money and do business with an occupying pagan government, Rome. Thus, when Jesus concludes each vignette, the invitation to the celebratory banquet is actually a call to a sit-down between the “questionably clean” Pharisees and the “interiorly clean” marginalized whose conversion is complete.
The lost sheep narrative suffers somewhat by its translation into English. The Greek originals actually string the premises along in a crescendo until the listener could hardly respond by anything other than a rousing “Of Course!” In English, the Pharisees could stop Jesus after his first sentence with an objection, like “what does sheep tending have to do with me?” Green also calls attention to Ezekiel 34, where the prophet is commanded by God to speak against the leaders of Israel, leaving their charges to scatter with no one to look for them. The first parable ends with a clear reference, paradoxical to be sure, of to the reality of heavenly judgment: the “found” will be cause for more joy than 99 who have no need of repentance. There is an eerie overtone here of Luke 18: 9-14, where the Pharisee prays in gratitude for his righteousness while the tax collector beats his breast in prayer for forgiveness. Jesus comments that only the tax collector went home justified. The phrase “those with no need of repentance,” evidently, is pregnant with foreboding.
The loss of one sheep out of one hundred is a concern; the loss of 10% of one’s life savings, or one coin out of ten, is an even bigger crisis, given that even ten coins represents about ten days’ wages; it is no significant IRA. Green observes that the woman invites her friends to celebrate her find, a gathering most likely of women. Recall the opening lines of Chapter 15 where Jesus is accused, essentially, of eating with undesirables.
The parable of the Prodigal Son, or the Loving Father, is probably well known to you. I would simply draw attention to its conclusion with the other brother. Luke’s use of language here is brilliant. The older brother does not bring himself to even name the younger brother, referring to him as “that son of yours.” As the elder brother continues to vent his spleen, it becomes evident that Luke, knowingly or unknowingly, has personified the text from St. Matthew, (Matthew 23: 25-26) that while the outside of the cup is clean, the inside is filled with moral rot. We do not know, from Luke’s text, whether this older son ever brought himself to sit at the banquet with his restored brother or not. But we have plenty to go on that absence from the banquet is indeed a very costly fast.