March 10, 2013 –– Fourth Sunday in Lent
2 Corinthians 5:11–21 / Luke 15:1–3, 11–32
I think most children go through a stage where they are either ashamed or resentful of their parents. It is part of maturing –– “individuation” is the psychological word. When children are young they usually identify almost totally with their parents, but there is a time when questions come, along with the desire to find one’s own way. While this is a natural stage of development, Christians should be aware that we live in a world corrupted by evil spiritual powers that work to propel that natural stage of developing maturity into rebellion. It is a crucial time when young lives can be wrecked and broken.
This is one way to understand the well-known story Jesus told that we call The Prodigal Son. This son was telling his friends that Dad was old and boring and out of touch with “real life.” He made sure that no one thought that Dad represented him in any way. There were probably some big boasts: “You just wait, I’m gettin’ out’a here!” After being teased and dared enough, he finally did it: “Dad, if you really love me you’ll let me go.... and give me my fair share. After all, I didn’t ask to be born ––you owe me.”
The Father lets him go, and even gives him his fair share. The son, of course, can’t see the love. The son doesn’t see the pain –– even the tears –– in “the old man’s” eyes. All the son can see are the visions of fun, fun, fun dancing in his head. “Life is for living, man, and time’s a’waste’n.”
It’s not hard to imagine how the time and money was spent after he left home. The world can, indeed, be a fun place.... as long as the fantasy conditions can be maintained. Money, health, accessible diversions –– these things can distract the soul so that we forget, for a while, the harsh realities of the true “real world.” It’s a rare person who has enough money so that it doesn’t run out. And even if that were not true, no one lives forever, and the more one lives with indulgence and recklessness, the more likely that health dissipates quickly. The devil is a liar. He is always out to hurt and destroy. When the world offers us “life” apart from God –– no matter how much pleasure and fun sugar-coats the “bait” –– we are being given a poison that will surely lead to death.
Except.... the Father that loves us and lets us go is always waiting for us to see past the mirage. The Father is always waiting for the son, desiring a coming to his senses.... The son probably didn’t even recognize what he was truly doing at first, but he embraced repentance –– “I was wrong; the old man was right....” Then he acted on his attitude of heart: I shall get up and go to my father and I shall say to him, “Father, I have sinned....”
And so he did.... and the Father was waiting.... and looking.... and was filled with compassion.... The son was welcomed.... restored.... and celebrated. We do not have an account of what happened after that initial welcome and the planned party. I think I can safely give at least some of “the rest of the story” ––
Most of the old neighborhood crowd was still around. They knew what the son had done –– the disrespect and the waste. They surely knew he was back, and what would he say now?
I’ll tell you what the son said –– to anyone who would listen. He, more than anyone, remembered the awful way he spoke of life at home and his father. Now he has a different line.... and it’s not about himself. I can hear that son telling everyone who will listen, and saying it again and again: Let me tell you about my Dad.... let me tell how wonderful he is.... let me tell you what Dad did for me.... let me tell you about my Dad....
Sons and daughters who have been lost and found have a story to tell, and the hero is our Father who is in heaven. I was lost, but I have been welcomed back... let me tell you about my Dad! The fuller story is actually the Father giving his only Son so that we who were estranged from the beginning could be adopted into the family. How about that for love?! We have a story to tell –– it’s why John Paul II and Benedict XVI have called us to the New Evangelization.
And so St Paul says: ....we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us.... For our sake he made him to be sin who did not know sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him.
Let me tell you about my Dad!