It has been challenging to be a regular blogger this last year, but I have never really wished to end "The Broom Tree." A good way back into action may be simply posting my homilies. Perhaps I will get back into some daily thoughts as well.
This is one of those weeks when the challenge of writing a homily is not in what to say, but what do I want to leave out. The theme of forgiveness is apparent in the Exodus reading where Moses asks the forgiveness of the Israelites who have constructed this golden calf to worship. In the letter to Timothy, we hear of how Paul was a major league sinner, one of the worst in his estimation, yet God forgave him and used him for the work of salvation. And in Luke we have three great parables about the loving, living God who gave his Son so that we could be saved. It’s the Prodigal Son that I wish to focus on, and the first son…the prodigal one in particular.
We have this restless son who decides to cash in his inheritance, leave his father’s opulent home and hit the highway of life for good fun and adventure. At home he had everything he could ask for, and more. But something made him restless and he decided to let go. So his father gave him his inheritance and let him leave.
This is more than just a set-up for the story. The Prodigal Son is much like the people of Israel in Exodus. God had freed them from slavery, gotten them across the Red Sea while wiping out the Egyptian force behind them and was leading them to a new life when they decided they didn’t need God. Their golden calf is much like the inheritance of the prodigal son. They were deciding to go their own way. We do this all the time. We choose to take a course that takes us away from, or blocks the love of God, and we go off on our own. This is called “sin.”
Now, who’s choice is this to leave. The son’s! What was his intention? To get away from home! What did the father do? With a heavy heart, he respected the choice of the son. What are we talking about here? Free will. Again, we’re the son. We can choose to live in God’s love or not. Afterall, love isn’t love if its forced on one…it must be chosen to be real. The son chooses his situation in life and sets out to life his life his way.
You know the story, so let’s cut to the pigs. The bottom has fallen out of his life, he has squandered his inheritance, and he’s forced to take a job feeding pigs. And the pigs eat better than him. To a good Jew listening to this story, that’s about as degrading as it can get! Pigs are considered to be impure animals and here is this son of Israel living worse than pigs because of the poor choices he made. If you were a good Jew listening to Jesus tell this story, you’re thinking Moses and the Golden calf.
But what does Luke say here. “Coming to his senses.” As in coming to his senses he thought why should I take this when I can go home and live much better as a worker for my father? This isn’t working. Maybe if Dad takes me back as a worker, things will be better than this. Again, the son makes a clear choice. Even if I become a slave for Dad, it’s better than this.
When we are mired in sin, we wonder if we can go back. How could God ever forgive me for what we have done. We’re nervous about asking for forgiveness. In our human view (like the starving son) we seek a forgiveness we do not deserve …Lord I am not worthy but only say the word and my soul will be healed.
The son becomes no slave. His father is overjoyed with love and restores him fully to his son-ship. He’s clothed in the best clothes and they throw a big party. Slave, nothing says Dad. You’re my son and you’re home!This is the sacrament of reconciliation. This is the greeting the Father has for us when we return to him. The moment of clarity when we come to our senses is when we encounter Christ and see the Truth in who he is. The return to the Father is both baptism and the sacrament of reconciliation. And the way the Father welcomes us is the way he welcomes the Prodigal Son in this parable. That is what Jesus is showing us, the total love of the Father in his forgiveness. The forgiveness made possible by the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ. To that good Jew we talked of earlier, when he heard this story, he thought there is no way possible for a son to return like that and be restored to his sonship. It wasn’t possible. And it wasn’t possible for him or for us to return to God without the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. He is that moment of clarity that calls us back and takes us there through the sacraments. In Jesus Christ it is possible for all us prodigals to head home.