Fr. Charles Irvin, Diocese of Lansing at 402-A E. Madison Street, DeWitt, MI 48820 US - 4th Lent [C] 2010
4th Lent [C] 2010
Fr. Charles Irvin
There are three characters in this parable that Jesus wants us to examine. Actually Jesus is presenting them to us so that we might in them take a look at our selves. How does each one of these characters mirror us, reflect back to us our own attitudes and conditions relative to God? Parables invite us to enter into their actors and to see ourselves in them.
The second thing we need to see is that when we walk away from God, while at the same time taking everything we can get from Him, we end up in the slop with the pigs. We end up in a state of spiritual poverty, and with an unrelieved hunger in our souls that all of the pleasures of this world cannot satisfy, no matter how much we have filled our selves to the full with what the pigs eat… no matter how much we have wallowed in their slop.
Finally, in order to enter into recovery and overcome our bloated addictions to the drugging effect of this world's narcosis, we must admit we’ve done wrong. This is the hardest thing in the world for many people to do. Countless numbers of people simply cannot admit that they've done anything wrong. And if they begin to suspect that they're wrong they redefine what they've done and regard what they are doing in a way that's not sinful and maybe even good. In other words, they define sin away, redefine reality, and cast their attitudes in new ways such that they don't need to admit they're wrong.
Next we need to pay attention to the elder brother, the one whose righteousness was cold, hard, judgmental, and even bitter. Many of the Pharisees who knew Jesus, resented the generosity of God's love as it was manifested in the life and attitudes of Jesus. They resented His generosity in forgiving sinners. Have we been like the elder son?
What we need also to note is that Jesus only forgave those who were truly penitent, those who genuinely admitted that they needed to trust God's merciful forgiveness, overcame their independence, overcame their denial, and then surrendered to God's love. This is something the elder brother could not do. He retained his independence, even giving his generous father a lecture on being too easy with his younger son. You see, for all of the elder brother's righteousness, he remained fiercely independent of his father's love. He even lived in denial of this own need for his father's tender, loving mercies.
You see, in this parable it’s the father's character and attitudes that we should use to measure ourselves, use to measure the capacities in our hearts and souls to be Godlike in our love, compassion, care, and concern in loving others.
For us, however, living in the culture in which we presently find ourselves, the critical aspect to seriously see in this parable is that in order to be forgiven one must first recognize evil and sin, recognize it for what it is, admit to ourselves and to God that we have sinned, and then genuinely go to our Father and ask for forgiveness. This is the critical movement that is so lacking in so very many people's souls these days. For we are a people who live in great denial. As Scott Peck wrote in his classic book of several decades ago, we are “a people of the lie” We live in lying to ourselves by telling ourselves that sin doesn't exist, that we have done no wrong, that everybody's "doing it" and so it is okay. "God will understand," we tell ourselves, and thus absolve ourselves from the need to admit anything to Him. That's called denial, and it's holding far too many folks these days in its seductive and addictive grip. Consequently they live trapped lives far removed from that which will give their souls the food for which they hunger and the strength that they can derive from it to live their lives in genuine freedom.