Sunday, March 10, 2013

Unfinished business, loose ends, accounts to settle

Father's Embrace by Ruth Tietjen Councell
(More images of the Prodigal here and here)

Homily for the Fourth Sunday of Lent
(Scriptures for today's Mass)

Audio for homily


On my blog I write a brief daily prayer
and post it around 11:00 in the morning under the title,
A Midday Prayer.

This past Wednesday, I offered these words:
The truth is, Lord,
you and I have some unfinished business,
a few loose ends to tie up,
an unsettled account or two...
You know it, Lord, and I know it –
even if I try to hide from it or forget it...
Remind me of your mercy and your pardon, Lord,
and give me the honesty, the courage and the strength I need
to be reconciled with you…
That’s a longer way of putting what we heard from St. Paul
this morning:  Be reconciled to God. 

And Jesus offers the same message in the gospel,
at much greater length, in this parable of the prodigal son.
Be reconciled to God.

The story of this father and his two sons is perhaps the richest
of all the parables Jesus preached.

There’s the desire for wealth and possessions
without having the burden of working for them or earning them.

There’s a stretch of “good times” with no worries or cares.

There are hard times and disillusionment,
along with sorrow and remorse.

There’s the pain and embarrassment of desperate circumstances.

There’s facing the truth, swallowing your pride,
and the walk of shame back to the one
who has every right to judge, reject and condemn.

But there’s also the surprise turn of events:
the father’s heart is a court of mercy;
he embraces and forgives the guilty;
he welcomes home the offender.

There’s so much to consider here;
so much spiritual food for thought;
so many dimensions to these well-known human experiences.

This morning, let’s look not so much at the son’s return
but rather at the fun he had in the city.

There’s a value for us in seeing that while the younger son was away,
“livin’ the dream” on his father’s card,
he thought of his life as blessed, not cursed.

His money and the luxuries and life-style he could afford
made him feel good about himself.

He mistook material prosperity for a “blessed life.”
His creature comforts kept him from seeing and acknowledging
his faults, his greed, his mistakes, his sins and his need for God:
his need for that blessing, that grace, that peace
that no money or possession or experience can offer us.

It’s probably fair to say that while this son was enjoying the “high life,”
he thought he had no sins.

Only when his own economy tanked did he “come to his senses,”
did he realize the error of his ways,
did he recognize how shallow had been his happiness,
and how foolish his choices.

If we want to find ourselves in the story of the prodigal son,
we might do well to concentrate on that time when he thought
he didn’t really have any real sins.

We might focus on the time when his material comfort
seemed to entitle him,
certainly kept him from seeing, from tending to
unfinished business,
the loose ends he needed to tie up,
the unsettled account between him and his father.

When we look to this part of the son’s story,
we might begin to look at our own stories
and to what masquerades in our lives as contentment;
what keeps us from looking deeper, below the surface;
what keeps us from acknowledging the truth of the
unfinished business, the loose ends, and the unsettled accounts
in need of our attention.

At least you and I have the benefit of knowing beforehand
the surprise turn of events that awaits us
every time we “come to our senses” as the prodigal did
and return to the open arms of the father’s merciful welcome home.

Lent is a time for taking inventory,
a time for “coming to our senses,”
for coming home to the Father
and asking for his pardon and his peace.

In our own personal prayer,
in the Sacrament of Reconciliation
and here at the altar,
the Lord gives us the grace
to examine and bring our hearts home to him.

As the prodigal’s father welcomed him back to the family feast,
so does the Lord want to welcome us
to the feast of the Table of the Eucharist.

So pray with me:
The truth is, Lord,
we all have have some unfinished business,
a few loose ends to tie up, an unsettled account or two...
You know it, Lord, and we know it –
even if we try to hide from it or forget it...
Remind us of your mercy and your pardon, Lord,
and give us the honesty, the courage and the strength we need
to be reconciled with you…
(More images of the Prodigal here and here)


 

     
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