Homily – March 31, 2019

Two things happened in this story that we might think about. We know how overjoyed the father was when his missing son returned home but think on this, how hard it must have been for the father to let his son go in the first place. He knew his son to be restless and unhappy. Farming was not for him. He wanted to see the world. His father was not happy with the son’s request for his inheritance. He knew his son would blow it, living the good life of parties surrounded by false friends. But here’s the wonder, the father loved the son well enough to let him go. He gave his son the personal freedom he needed, the wings he needed at that time in his life. The father showed his son more love in letting him go than the love and excitement he showed when his changed and chastened son returned.

I read somewhere that parents are to give their children two things, roots and wings. Roots are the values by which they live their lives and wings are the freedom to find their own way. There can be times when wings carry them far from their roots, like the son in today’s gospel but we know that roots are stronger than wings and hopefully when wings weary the roots supply the strength for them to return home.

The other thing in this story is the tragedy on the faithful’s son resentment over what he saw as the unfairness of it all. As he complained to his father,’ for all these years I have been working like a slave for you, I’ve never disobeyed your commands, you never let me throw a party for my friends.’ We can just hear the truth of the unfairness of it all. That unfairness was something he would not let go. We can imagine it was a grudge he carried for years, a grudge that would empty his own life of happiness. Every time he met his brother in the field the unfairness of it all would rise up like bile in his throat.

This powerful story asks two things of us; are we willing to give those we love the freedom to live their lives beyond our control? Are we willing to let them grow up? Are we willing to let them find their own way, make their own mistakes. Giving wings challenges our need to control. Giving wings challenges our love.

Lent is a season to ‘pass over’ to pass from the world of unfairness, unappreciated love, unjust judgements to a world of reconciliation. Lent challenges us to pass over from resentment and let go of past hurts and painful memories. Lent challenges us to pass over family conflicts and longstanding resentments and let the pass be the past.

The message of Lent and of the gospel is clear, ‘we implore you, in Christ’s name to be reconciled to God. That can only happen when we are reconciled to those who have hurt and disappointed or even betrayed us.

Continuing this Mass we pray for ourselves and for each other that we be that trustful enough of those we love to give them the wings of freedom and discovery and we be grounded by deep roots of understanding and compassion and forgiveness and be able and willing to welcome back into our lives family members and friends who may have hurt and disappointed us.