Maria Kozakiewicz

WORD MADE FLESH

Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time – September 11, 2016
Exodus 32.7-11, 13-14 | Psalm 51 | 1 Timothy 1.12-17 | Luke 15.1-32
August 29, 2016

The story of the prodigal son is well known to us perpetual old sinners who walk away from God, starve and return to him with the regularity of the tide.

No retreat, no major homecoming confession takes place without it. It contains the essence of Christ's message - the never-ending, patient love and forgiveness of God faced with human weakness and ingratitude.

Seemingly, our civilization was built on this story. Robinson Crusoe meditated on it on his lonely island; little Heidi in a well-known children's book pondered its beauty and felt comforted. Great painters strained imagination to show the moment when father embraces the kneeling son.

As with every parable in the Good Book, this story is a mystery of human nature.

This son of mine was dead and is alive again. - Luke 15.24

'This son of mine was dead and is alive again.'

Luke 15.24

I used to think we chose one role in the drama and played it out. If your lot is to be a younger son, you return home, kneel at the feet of the father who accepts you. You receive your new robe, ring and sandals, and stay safe at home forever.

"No," says life. "This is not how it works."

After months or years at home, memories of famine fade and boredom sets in. You trade your lovely robe for a few coins, and set off again in search of "fun."

The father looks sad, but, respecting your freedom, lets you go. The story repeats itself again and again. Beaten down, disillusioned, sick, you return again and again.

After many infidelities, after you've eaten with swine, you know there is no one in the world who loves you, only the father. So this time you stay at home and work diligently. The neighbours say: "Look how he's changed."

End of story? No. Now you have to learn the lesson of the elder son.

You have returned to the faith, have come to Mass every week for years, have married in the Church or have become a priest.

Now you see those "others" running away, first dancing with stars and then eating with pigs. One day they take their first steps on the road of Return. You see how father opens his arms to them, sets up a feast, has the fattened calf ready, the glittering robe and ring.

What do you feel? Compassion? Hidden anger? Contempt?

You know from experience that the returning sinners are returning to the father because they are hungry, homeless and humiliated. Far from truly contrite, they soon will be on the road again. In the face of the father, you see his boundless love and know he will never turn away the ragged shadow of his son.

You want to protect him, and righteousness swells within. Off with the younger son; he deserves nothing. He/she has squandered father's property; he/she has no right to be here.

He has divorced his wife; she has had abortion; they attacked the Church on TV; no one saw them in church for years. They do not belong here.

"No," says the father. "They do."