March 23 - The Prodigal Son
Mar 22, 2019
Scriptures: I have been praying a lot over the parable of the Prodigal Son. By this point, we have probably all heard the story of the son who begs his inheritance and pilfers it in a life of ill repute. I was always moved by the reception of the prodigal son by the father, whenever I see the reuniting of someone deployed with their children, I think of the joy of reunion. However, I want to emphasize the older brother today. He was obedient and faithful but yet never had a feast in his honor. He sees the sin in his brother and the feast that apparently rewards his lack of fidelity. Though obedience is one of the theological counsels that makes for a daily expression of humility and love, the older son did not learn to love his own brother with his father's eyes. Who hold's the right to the grudge, of a son disrespecting his father and wasting his inheritance? Would it not be the Father's grudge to hold? Yet the son holds in the father's name where the father has the spirit of clemency that Micah spoke of in the first reading. It is truly sad when the prodigal son marches away to a lifestyle of death, but it is also sad that the son who remained never advanced to love as the father loves. If he had, it would be the older brother watching the road on the father's behalf. And yet the father doesn't love the older less, yet he chastises him not to realize the Father does not hold back from him either. We can learn great love through great mercy, we can also learn great love through obedience and the emulation of love. Let us pray that we can learn to love like the father without trial.
Core Principle of Faith: The three Theological Counsels are Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience. Everyone who participates in religious life, makes some form of commitment to these counsels. Poverty conditions a person to rely on God for all good things and to treasure their neighbor over possessions. The prodigal son thought that wealth would bring him joy but it only led him to shallow pleasures. He substituted the gift of himself in friendships for the gift of his money which he quickly ran out of. The Counsel of Chastity helps those who practice it to love rightly. They learn how to love unselfishly by making of themselves a full gift to others without any cost of reciprocation. Through the practice of purity a person creates and multiplies joy and sincerity by a heart that is undivided by self-interest. Finally the Counsel of obedience is one of trust and service. By conforming one's will to the attitude Christ promoted, "Whichever you seeks to be the greatest, will be the servant of all." It is the spirit of self-sacrifice and a willingness to suffer for the sake of love.
Living this at Home: Not every child will grow up to become a nun, a brother, a priest, or a deacon. However, we are all called to practice in some form these holy counsels. During Lent this may be a good opportunity to practice these counsels with your children. The ones who do, will natural learn that they lead to a happy and abundant life. I hope that by purposefully promoting them to our children, that we might restore to our society the much needed influence of Religious Life. How do you practice obedience? This is perhaps the most natural because children are subject to their parents (ideally). Perhaps you can ask your children for to make a sacrifice for the family, whether it is cooking, cleaning, or some other task that requires of them a cost. Then in reciprocation the parent should provide some form of benevolence to the child (a special dessert, a fun activity, etc.) We can reinforce that obedience doesn't work like a vending machine, put something in, get something out, but the Lord does bless those who practice obedience. To practice chastity, arrange a time for your children to visit their grandparents or other family members. Not to hide behind technology, but to share stories and life experience. The telling of stories, the sharing of life, brings an abundance of chastity to the soul. Learning to open our hearts to others, form relationships of great love, without it being marital love, is important for our formation. The prodigal son, did not run back to his lousy friends when all was lost, he ran back to his Father because he knew his Father's heart. Finally, there is poverty. How do we teach a generation raised on consumerism to treasure people more than things or to rely fully on God. I believe the easiest way (easier than simulating poverty by taking things away) is to practice gratitude in the house. In nightly prayers, we might reinforce prayers of gratitude for the things they have that both God and their parents provide. For older kids, who are capable of helping out, you may teach them self provision. Put them to work. "Mom can I have $20?" Sure, Betsy, you can work for me, I'll pay you $10/hr for doing the following chores. Or help them get a job. They will be more grateful for the gift, when they truly know the cost.