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My fly fishing instructor called me. It is usually the same message: “I found the fish in Boston harbor. Let’s go.” Yet, this time the message was different. He told me that he had stage-four cancer and that he made out his will. He then informed me that I was in it. After he died, I received an inheritance for the first time in my life. No, I didn’t get a car, or property, nor did I receive a large sum of money. I inherited fishing hooks and feathers. Why would my friend leave me fishing hooks and feathers? I will tell you. I took the hooks and feathers and made up a bunch of flies. I took the flies to Boston harbor and there I was catching fish. Sure enough, a fisherman saw me catching fish and came over and cast where I was casting. I continued to catch fish, but he did not. I went over to him, opened up my fly box, and gave him some of my flies. He immediately caught fish. He was so happy. And that is why my instructor left me with feathers and hooks. Not for me to sell them on e-bay to make a buck. Rather, to carry on his legacy. I had more fun seeing the fisherman catch fish.

The reason I tell you this is because, in the ancient world, the most important task for the dad was to give the kids an inheritance. Why was it the most important task? So the kids could carry on the father’s legacy.

In the Gospel, there is a story of a father giving his sons an inheritance. The youngest son asks for his share of the inheritance. That seems to be a good thing. The kid, we assume, wants to carry on the father’s legacy. Maybe he wants to get a few more bullocks with extra horsepower, maybe hire more hands for the field, or expand the land. But instead of carrying on the dad’s legacy, he takes off and spends it all. What? So the story takes a turn–the son is forced to go back to the father, not because he likes the father, but because the father has food. The father is so happy to see him that he runs to him, embraces him, showers him with nice clothes and jewelry, and throws him a party.

Now the other son is upset and complains that the father has given him nothing. So what does the father do? He gives him everything he owns.

Here is the question. Why is the father so nice to these two ingrates? He is nice to them so that they will carry on his legacy. What is this legacy? He offers them compassion because they have none of it, either toward the father or toward each other. Now that the father gave them compassion, they can carry on his legacy.

So why is God so nice to sinners? God gives us what we do not have. Now that God has shown us compassion, we can carry on His legacy. I am grateful to my fly tying instructor for giving me hooks and feathers. He gave me everything I needed to carry on his legacy. So too, God gives us everything we need to carry on His legacy.

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