Saturday, March 10, 2007

Saturday in the 2nd Week of Lent
The Father’s House

Readings: Micah 7:14-15, 18-20; Psalm 103:1-2, 3-4, 9-10, 11-12; Luke 15:1-3, 11-32

Today’s gospel parable is well-known and there’s probably little I can say that will be new to us. Still, we know that the parable offers us an image of repentance. And it’s important for us to ponder upon this image especially as we continue our pilgrimage through Lent. Furthermore, familiar as we are with the parable, it’s probably true that when we listen or read it, our attention is usually focused almost exclusively on the first part, the part that deals with the departure and return of the younger son. But there is more to the parable than that. So today, we will try to consider both sons and their relationship to their father.

The difference between the two sons is quite clear. The younger is the rebel. He asks his father for his inheritance, then leaves home and squanders it. The older, on the other hand, is the apparently obedient one. He remains at home, works hard, and never even asks his father for a kid to celebrate with his friends. One asks for everything, the other never asks. Could they be any more different?

And yet, isn’t this difference really rooted in a fundamental similarity. Why does one ask for everything and the other for nothing? Why does one run away while the other remains to slog quietly but resentfully? Isn’t it because neither realizes how much the father loves him? Isn’t it because they both fail to realize the truth in the father’s words to the elder son: you are with me always and all that I have is yours? There is no need to run. Neither is there need to be resentful or envious. All that I have is yours… What a staggering thought! Especially when we transpose it to our own situation. The parable is an image of the way in which our heavenly Father relates to each one of us. To think that everything the Father has is ours… Dare we even believe it?

Doesn’t this give us a better picture of what it means to sin and to repent? Sin is really a consequence of the failure to realize the extent of the Father’s love for us his children. And, as portrayed in the parable, to sin is to choose to remain outside the Father’s house. Notice how frantically and even pathetically the Father keeps rushing out to meet and coax first the younger and then the elder son to enter his house, to enjoy more fully his love for them, and so to also be at peace with each other. To repent then is not just a matter of refraining from doing bad things. Ultimately it’s a matter of coming to recognize and to accept the love that the Father has for each of us, and to let that love be the foundation of our very existence. It is to enter and to remain, with our sisters and brothers, in our Father’s house.

The parable ends quite abruptly, without telling us if the elder son actually goes in for the celebration.

Do we?

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