Prodigal Sons

Sunday Reflections 9.12.10

At the advice of some friends we met during our first week of Spanish school, we went to a different church this week and we stumbled upon a major discovery!

What’s that, you ask?  Here, take another look:

That’s right!  Its a take-away misselette in Spanish!  (And yes, I took it home to memorize and look up verbs – there were only a few left, but it was after the last Mass of the day though so I think it was OK).

This was a huge find, since being able to follow along in Spanish (as opposed to responding in mostly English as I had been doing) has definitely made me feel like less of an impostor in this country :)  I was also able to tell which readings were happening, AS they were happening!  Also, since I read a lot better than I speak/understand, I understood more thanks to the extra articles written about the readings (although the homily was still more or less a mystery to me).

Oh, and another great thing is that they have adoration there!   Mike and I got to the church about an hour early so we were able to have some (much needed) reflection time before Mass.

Onto what I reflected on after the readings, which were:

Reading 1  Ex 32:7-11, 13-14

Responsorial Psalm  Ps 51:3-4, 12-13, 17, 19

Reading 2  1 Tm 1:12-17

Gospel  Lk 15:1-32 or 15:1-10

I want to write here honestly, and while I know that won’t always paint me in the best light (I’m a sinner and far, far from saintly) I do need to work through these things.  I hope you’ll help me.  While reading and reflecting the Gospel I had conflicting thoughts and emotions.  In reading the first part of the Gospel I was first reminded of how I felt before my confirmation and entrance into the universal church almost 4 years ago.  I remember hearing the verses back then and really relating to the prodigal son.  (‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you;  I no longer deserve to be called your son.’)  I completely did not deserve the gift of faith that God was giving me but I embraced it with overwhelming humility and gratitude.  What an incredible treasure I had found!  Even back then, the second part of the Gospel troubled me though.  Why was it that someone, a believer, be upset by the treatment that God was giving me?  I was confused.  Wouldn’t we want more in our flock?  Why would people even think that treatment by God was a competition.  Does he not love all his sons and daughters equally?

I clearly had not had something “bad” enough in my life happen to make this a temptation for me.

This past week, I was most troubled by my immediate reaction to the  Gospel because instead of relating to the prodigal son as I once had, I related to that other brother.  You know, the one that says:

‘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.’

I know, its awful to think I can earn “good treatment” from God (look at Job) and even worse to compare myself to someone that did not once disobey God’s orders, but I do think in the beginning of our struggle I had a “But we did everything right!” mentality.   It was a fleeting thought since there are many, many other things in my life I have done wrong, but in terms of things sexuality and openness to life, my husband and I were miraculously (and by the grace of God) able to do a 180 in our actions during our courtship and marriage.  I found myself thinking, “Seriously God?  We’ve been so open to life in our marriage – we even teach NFP! – and you’re letting those couples who don’t want children or who’ve contracepted the whole marriage get pregnant?”  (and yes, it does feel shameful to write that).   I’ll be honest though, I can only play the “we’re innocent!” game for a few seconds before falling through one of the many holes in that type of thinking, one of the largest which may be that the idea of “earning” children is just plain ludicrous.  But the fact that I’m identifying with the whiny guy in the bible verse is a wake-up call.  Still,  I can’t help what I feel and sometimes I do wonder just a little if God hears me.   Sometimes this feels just so lonely.

I know he hears me.  And this is His answer, that I really felt he practically screamed at me last week (in Spanish):

‘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.’

And that’s a smack in the head reminder that that’s plenty for me, because the important thing is that I’m here with Him, not that I’m not eating “fattened calf”.

Because when I stop complaining and when it comes right down to it, if given the choice I’d stick with being stuck right here over fattened calf any day.

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8 thoughts on “Prodigal Sons

  1. Exactly ~ Thank you so much for sharing this; I have struggled with this a lot in my home life as the ‘good’ kid with two ‘squeaky wheel’ siblings ~ I had to come to understand that being faithful and therefore not reaping the effects which come from straying is in itself a good ~ and that my parents ( and God’s) love is constant even when not wrapped up in banners and proclamations

  2. Wow, Alison, what a profound insight into yourself and a profound sharing with us. You really saw clearly into yourself. There are many a trap in the spiritual life. Have you ever read “Screwtape Letters” by C S Lewis? It’s in English too! : -)

    • ha, thanks Joe! I actually have it and started it but never finished it…much like many books I’ve attempted over these past few years…I’ll pick it up again when I get home!

  3. I have ALWAYS had trouble w/ this passage. ALWAYS. Especially in the last few years w/ everything that’s gone on w/ my sister. I have always identified w/ the brother who stayed at home. I suppose that’s my initial, surface reaction to this story, every single time. I’ve even complained to Connie about it, haha, and even she said she didn’t understand what the dude was supposed to have learned. But I guess if I get down to it, I’ve learned that I don’t need external affirmations, that knowing that I’m discerning God’s will for me should be enough. Lol, I just think I have a lot of issues w/ this passage, w/ my father, w/ my sister, etc, that it’s hard for me to really understand the moral of the story. I always see the “good” son as not getting anything & the prodigal as being rewarded for screwing up. Not the most accurate, I know, but that’s how I always feel when I read it. But I know that anything the father had, the “good” son also had, and that it’s the prodigal’s return that’s being celebrated, not his screw-ups. Then I compare the story to my life, and I get really angry, bc I feel like the “good” son, but not only did I “not get anything,” but I was actually punished (disowned, etc). And then she returns & gets a huge party. Ah, I sound like a brat. I know. I’m actually over it for the most part, but, like I said, this passage always gets to me. I’ve actually gone to see her in CA 3x this year, and I’m going again when the baby’s born.
    Gah, this was long. My apologies. I feel like if we were having this conversation in real life, it would’ve turned into one of our three-hour long talking marathons. I miss those! And you! And Mike!

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