I always feel a little bad about digging in my purse during Mass, grabbing a pen and paper and writing. I feel like the priest or deacon preaching the homily is up there, looking at me, upset that I’m not paying attention. Even though, this is just what our pastor has suggested that we do, as we are supposed to be listening, especially during the Gospel, to what God is saying to *me*. And the homily is meant to break open the Word.
Today, I drove out to Plymouth for Mass, as I was scheduled to serve as an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion. Deacon Chris is a transitional deacon who is assigned to our parish for the year. As he proclaimed the Gospel today — the story of the Prodigal Son — I was reminded of the first reading, of the Israelites making and worshiping the golden calf.
As Deacon Chris read the Gospel, I thought about the different characters in the story. Today, I lingered on the person of the older brother. The first reading gave some insight (or perhaps I just had a wacky thought) on the older brother.
The Israelites were fine with following God when He was in their midst day and night. Of course, this isn’t to say that they were grateful for what they had. On the contrary, they complained about food, water, walking…. But things really began to unravel when God went up the mountain and left them at the base of the mountain with with Aaron. Once God wasn’t immediately present to them, they put their focus on something else and their priorities in their affections became skewed. Suddenly, this golden calf became the center of their worship.
I think something similar was going on with the older brother. Although we didn’t specifically hear it in the Gospel, we can assume that he was fairly okay living with his father. From his later statements and actions, we can surmise that he wasn’t entirely grateful for the life he had in his father’s household, but that he felt like he was a slave within his father’s house, “working” for him. But it wasn’t until the prodigal son came back home that this disorder within his heart was revealed. What he pointed to as being the problem was the fact that the father killed the fatted calf for the welcome home party.
Again, this calf distracts from the blessings offered by the father.
It’s all the cow’s fault.