“And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, ‘This man receives sinners and eats with them.'” (Luke 15:2)
Pharisees and scribes resented Jesus for treating everyone the same way. Jesus ate with the righteous Pharisees and scribes, and then He ate with sinners. He made no distinctions between them.
Jesus is only imitating His Father. God is like a shepherd who pursues his lost sheep, or like a woman who searches for her lost coin. If a shepherd celebrates when he finds his lost sheep, and if a woman celebrates when she finds her money, then won’t God celebrate when a sinner repents? Certainly people are more important than sheep and coins.
Jesus describes God as a father who celebrates when His younger, rebellious son returns to Him. This story is similar to the previous two stories, but there is a significant difference. In this story, there is an elder son, who never left his father and resents his father for celebrating the younger brother’s return. Obviously, the elder brother represents the Pharisees and the scribes. They don’t merely resent Jesus. They resent His Father, too.
Perhaps you were a lost lamb, or a lost coin, or prodigal son. Maybe you left the Church, renounced the faith, and committed really atrocious sins. You may have experienced the Father’s love when you returned, were re-clothed in the righteousness of Christ, and were brought to the table.
Most likely, that didn’t happen to you. So are you like the elder brother? Of course not! You join the prodigals at the Father’s table, don’t you? You recognize that you were brought into the Father’s family when you were baptized, not because of your works, but because of His grace, right? You know that God gives every good thing to all of His children, including you, because Jesus died for everyone.
O God, the protector of all who trust in You, without whom nothing is strong and nothing is holy, multiply Your mercy on us that, with You as our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal that we lose not the things eternal; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.