Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Story is NOT About us


Here are the readings for 3/6/10.

I always find it fascinating how self-centered I can be. I think that if most things are not directly about me then they are indirectly about me. I can be having a conversation with someone and only talk about myself and my experience. I always think about this when I read the parable of the Prodigal Son.

Rembrandt's The Return of The Prodigal Son,
I highly recommend the book:
The Return of The Prodigal Son by: Henri Nouwen.
It is excellent!

I was reading this and I took some notes on the Gospel and I would like to share them with you.

A reading from the Gospel according to St. Luke.

Tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to Jesus,
but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying,

(The Pharisees were very concerned with legalistic purity. They wanted the rules in Leviticus, which were meant for the Levites and priest, to be applied to everyone. They asserted their Jewish identity by want to separate completely from Gentiles. Tax collectors worked with and for those very same Gentiles; and the sinners were ritually impure people. They did not like Jesus for this at all!)

“This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
So to them Jesus addressed this parable.
“A man had two sons, and the younger son said to his father,
‘Father, give me the share of your estate that should come to me.’

(At the time for a son to ask for his inheritance it meant that he didn't if his father lived or died. The younger son just wanted the money and if anything preferred the father to die already so he could get the money.)

So the father divided the property between them.
After a few days, the younger son collected all his belongings
and set off to a distant country
where he squandered his inheritance on a life of dissipation.

(He acted on impulse and did not plan well at all. He wasted his money by misuse.)

When he had freely spent everything, (This was some SERIOUS partying!)
a severe famine struck that country,
and he found himself in dire need.
So he hired himself out to one of the local citizens
who sent him to his farm to tend the swine.
And he longed to eat his fill of the pods on which the swine fed,
but nobody gave him any.

(Since he is talking to Jews, we can pretty much be sure that this family was Jewish. For this younger son to hire himself out to local citizens, or Gentiles, to take care of the pigs, which were animals that were NOT kosher, and more than likely they would also make him work on the Sabbath. To the Pharisees. whom he was addressing, this is one of the worse things that could happen to a person; it would be better to be dead.)

Coming to his senses he thought,
‘How many of my father’s hired workers
have more than enough food to eat,
but here am I, dying from hunger.
I shall get up and go to my father and I shall say to him,
“Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.
I no longer deserve to be called your son;
treat me as you would treat one of your hired workers.”’

(He wasn't actually sorry. He was going to tell his father what he thought his father wanted to hear. He was not sincere because he just wanted to get out of his situation and not necessarily make amends with his father. You can almost hear him practicing his speech over and over again as he walked home.)

So he got up and went back to his father.
While he was still a long way off,
his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion.
He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him.

(His father was waiting for him and RAN to his son. Instead of hating his son for wanting him dead, he RAN to his son, EMBRACED him and KISSED him. When was the last time when you ran, embraced, and kissed someone who hurt and wounded you in the worst way possible? I can tell you when was mine. NEVER. I can't even imagine loving like that. I know I am not near that but I would like to be at a point in my life.)

His son said to him,
‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you;
I no longer deserve to be called your son.’
But his father ordered his servants,
‘Quickly, bring the finest robe and put it on him;
put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.
Take the fattened calf and slaughter it.
Then let us celebrate with a feast,
because this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again;
he was lost, and has been found.’
Then the celebration began.

(His dad really didn't care what his son had to say. The son didn't have to say anything at all. The father was just happy to see him. How many times when someone hurts me do I expect this big apology and to see them truly sorry for what they did. Or least to have seen them suffer something for the wrong they did. In our own lives, "we say what goes around comes around." If the father were to say, "Since I am dead to you, you are dead to me." And everyone would have said that would have been perfectly fine and justifiable. But that is not what the father did.)

Now the older son had been out in the field
and, on his way back, as he neared the house,
he heard the sound of music and dancing.
He called one of the servants and asked what this might mean.
The servant said to him,
‘Your brother has returned
and your father has slaughtered the fattened calf
because he has him back safe and sound.’
He became angry,
and when he refused to enter the house,
his father came out and pleaded with him.
He said to his father in reply,
‘Look, all these years I served you
and not once did I disobey your orders;
yet you never gave me even a young goat to feast on with my friends.
But when your son returns
who swallowed up your property with prostitutes,
for him you slaughter the fattened calf.’

(Wow, how long was this older brother holding this in for? Another thing that was interesting is that HE became angry, HE refused to enter the house and the father had to beg HIM to come inside and celebrate.' Our own anger and the things we cannot let go of only prevent us from enjoying life. Sometimes we choose to try to hurt people by withdrawing our presence from them. I do not think if the father also gave him a fatted calf everything would be better. The older son says something interesting in that when he accuses his brother he says, "YOUR son," not "MY brother." He wants to disassociate himself from his family. Also he accuse his brother of wasting it on prostitutes, all we know in the parable is that he 'dissipated' it. He said this to hurt his whom he felt hurt him.)

He said to him,
‘My son, you are here with me always;
everything I have is yours.
But now we must celebrate and rejoice,
because your brother was dead and has come to life again;
he was lost and has been found.’“

Wow this guys is 2 for 2! I think if this was me I would have done one of two things; either tell the older son, you are wrong and do what you'd like but I am celebrating his return, stay out here if you want. Or I would have said, you know you are right, what was I thinking, call your friends over and celebrate all your years of dedication to me and let's send your brother away. But the father does not do any of those and loves them both equally. What a tremendous heart!

This story reminds me of me being self-centered, simply because of the title of the story. We call it, "The Return of the Prodigal Sso," BUT THE STORY IS NOT ABOUT THE SON!!! It is about the Father and His Love. I think it should be called "The Parable of the Forgiving Father," or, "The Loving Father." But we think the story is about us. The story isn't called "The Indignant Son," who is also a main character in the story but we would rather see ourselves as the Son who returns.

I just thought these are some interesting reflections similar to how Henri Nouwen calls us to examine each character in the story and see which one are we in different times in our life.

PS. How does the story end? Does the older brother come to the party?

It does not say. Jesus is using a specific story telling device which allows the reader to enter the story and finish it for themselves. We hope we choose to enter the party but God still respect our freedom if we don't.)

Pray well!

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