3/10/13,More Than I Can Be

3:1-8, 13-15, 2 Corinthians 5:17-21, Luke 15:1-3, 11-32

As Jesus was traveling with his disciples and other followers towards Jerusalem, he preached all along the way about the need for repentance, the need for change.   Last week our readings called us to reflect on the message inherent in the parable of the fig tree.   The gardener who nurtured the unproductive tree was compassionate.  Not wanting the fig tree to be destroyed, he asked for another chance for the tree to change its unfruitful life. He committed himself to support the tree by cultivating and fertilizing it in the hope that good would yet come of it.

Today’s Gospel, the familiar parable of the Prodigal son, is preceded by two shorter parables about second chances: The Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin.  A shepherd and a woman seek for that which has been lost to them until it is found again, and then they rejoice.  What a perfect lead into the parable about a lost son.   

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T604fwE9yf0    This is a modern day Prodigal Son story.  I will bet we have each played the painful parts of all three roles in the Prodigal Son story at one point in our lives, not only in our human relationships but in our relationship with the Divine. Jesus tells this story, I believe, not as a moral lesson about the foolishness of the younger son, or the judgmental character of the older.  This story is all about relationship. All of Creation reflects Divine Love, a Love that longs to restore unity within its parts.

We’ve all been younger sons and daughters, insistent on having our own ways, like the rebellious son.  We’ve all indulged  the self-righteousness attitudes of the older sibling when people who do foolish things don’t get what we think they deserve.  We have felt the frustration and the pain of the father and mother when our love and care for others has been disrespected and cast aside.

 No matter which of these places we occupied at one time or another, or are maybe even experiencing now, the story gives us a chance during this Lenten season to look into our hearts and hear deeply the message from the video, “It’s easy to forget the family we once were…but it’s even harder not to love.”

Perhaps the power of human judgment to destroy relationships is the real problem that that Jesus is addressing in this parable.  The younger son judges his father as being the cause of his having no fun in his life, so he demands what is not his to take, effectively ruining the family relationship with his selfishness.  The older son judges his brother as a fool and his father as a bigger fool for not insisting on harsh consequences for errant behavior. Although still technically in the family, in his heart he is distanced from both brother and father.  But the father casts all these judgments aside for the sake of love.  He shows the essence of Divine Grace by simply saying to both sons:  “Welcome back!  No matter what you’ve done. Let’s try to restore relationship. I will take the initiative.” 

As we are growing into mature relationship with the Divine, we are invited to let go of the self-centered nature of spiritual youth and the judgmental nature of middle years. We are invited to grow into the maturity of the spiritual elder who comes alongside those who are limping along in life, for whatever reason.  When they are down and their souls are weary, when trouble comes and their hearts are burdened… let’s take on the grace of spiritual maturity and raise them up to more than they can be.  For in so doing, we become what we are meant to be: the all-encompassing, non-judgmental, unifying love of God in this world.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rCAwXb9n7EY

By Sandi DeMaster