Reflection for Sunday – September 11, 2016
Readings: Exodus 32: 7-11, 13-14; 1 Timothy 1:12-17; Luke 15:1-32
Preacher: Deni Mack
Several people have said the story of the prodigal son is their favorite. Some relate to the wasteful, wandering son; others to the unforgiving brother and many to the forgiving father. If truth be told, we are something like each of those characters at one time or another. We may not sin as flamboyantly as the errant son or forgive as lavishly as the father, but do we think we’ve done most of the work like the older brother? Do we hold a grudge about those who’ve left us with the biggest jobs? Ever jealous? Ever feel unappreciated? Such feelings, even when not acted upon, can become a heavy grey cloud on God’s and anyone else’s party.
In Ignatian Spiritual Exercises we are invited to immerse ourselves in scripture stories. In a series of meditations we trust God who opens our hearts to the nuances of each character, and to Jesus who is telling us this parable. As we sit in silence with the events Jesus describes we feel as the people in the story may have felt, see what they may have seen, listen to what they may have heard, and deepen our insights into why Jesus would tell us this story. We revisit the parable again and again and discover new perspectives. We let the story touch us personally.
One woman said, “Where is the boy’s mother? Did she urge her husband to forgive their son? We forgive our kids all the time. That’s what parents do. And we ask their forgiveness as well.” A man said, “That kid took half the family’s support system; he left his older brother alone to care for their parents in their old age. Remember there was no Social Security back then. The kids cared for their parents. What does this say to me today? I sound like the older brother. God is throwing a party and I gotta drop my grudge.”
There is nothing automatic about forgiveness. Newly found humility helped the son realize he deserved nothing from his father even as he sensed his father might let him work and earn enough to eat. Is humility a major key to finding God’s forgiveness? Have you found that in your life? I was touched by an older man’s humility when he said, “This prodigal son’s family is the human family. When we waste water and consume too greedy a chunk of God’s creation we leave our human family without enough for each one. Ever since Pope Francis joined the crowd alerting us to our role in climate change I’ve realized I’ve got to do better at this.”
The forgiving father and most likely the mother, as well, told the older brother, “You are here with me always; everything I have is yours!” God says the same to us. Can we hear some of God’s Everything when kind words are spoken; in the song of a bird and the sound of a cello? Can we see some of God’s Everything? Do we appreciate God’s everything? Fresh air, flowing fresh water, a hike in the woods, a swim in the lake, abundant food, dear people, animals, plants, our limbs, our eyes, our ability to see, to hear, to feel, to touch, to breathe, to laugh, to be in awe of the beauty God has created, this life, this grand exercise of living, loving, nurturing, hoping, helping, singing, working, dancing, running, being in relationship with old and young and all ages, of weeping transformed, of sadness lifted, of promises kept, of joys, of compassion and more are just some of God’s EVERYTHING.
God is throwing a party and we are all invited. All the time. No matter what, let’s join the party.