We all know this quote:
We all know what Jesus says in the gospel, what Paul says in his letter, and what Moses does for the people of Israel. But does it matter?
If the host of heaven acclaim in joy the repentance of one sinner, there's a whole army of us across the globe. 1.2 billion Catholics who "repent" at last twice a year in Advent and Lent, but what does that look like from Heaven's perspective.
There must be a constant party going on there because every second a soul is saved. The idea of being "partied out" apparently doesn't exist in paradise, nor should it.
But if you're a righteous person, you follow the law and live according to God's commands, will your reception party be as honorable as the guy who lived like scum from his entire life only to repent on his death bed and get into God's Kingdom? I'd assert the answer is yes.
You see, the righteous get to experience God's love and mercy endlessly in this life. We (if I may assume I too am mostly honest) receive the sacraments and practice the life of faith all our days. We are the other Brother in Jesus' parable. We are the one who might approach the party with resentment for that loser brother who doesn't deserve the reward for his mistreatment of their time on earth.
Here's what I think will happen. We will walk into that party in Heaven and be so swept up by the glory it is that we long for our lost brothers and sisters to be there too. It is a different perspective for the not-so-lost.
It is no accident that a few weeks ago, Jesus taught us about humility. Times that parallel the Prodigal Son parable in our lives are a great way to test our true humility. For instance, someone who is my "brother" receives an offer for a job that I would love to do, but they took steps to make it happen for themselves. I would challenge my ego to be happy for my "brother" and earnestly rejoice in their success. Exercising this process eliminates the deadly sin of jealousy that can consume our hearts and thoughts.
It is no accident that last week, Jesus made it clear that we should love Him above all others. It is not that we should "hate" our family, but have a healthy love that celebrates their joy and gives glory to God in Christ. That's a significant gain for all involved.
Do you see how all these complexities combine into a few central tenants of the life of faith yet? Love God with all your heart, all your mind, all your being and love your neighbor as yourself. If you're doing that, you're not likely to be the resentful brother, nor the lost soul of the Prodigal Son.
As the song says, "Lord, I want to be in that number. When the saints go marching in!" That community of Saints includes us all who acknowledge God's goodness, and its a helluva party!