2016 – Cycle C
Joshua 5:9a, 10-12; Psalm 34; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21; Luke 15:1-3, 11-32
How many of us are waiting; waiting for someone to return?
We pause and look down the street from a kitchen window as we are washing dishes or to the horizon as we are driving to and from our activities. We look up from doing chores, or our prayers or from reading a book and stare into space. A space filled with worry mingled with hope. We are friends, siblings, parents, spouses.
One of the most difficult aspects of relationship is to respect another person’s life choices, even if you know they are poor and perilous choices for life. We can walk through life with people. We can never walk through life for people.
- I know a mother who waits, longs and prays for her son with whom she lives. See, the return is not always one of physical distance. This return is from an emotional distance. A waiting for the return of the person he was, could have been, might be.
- I know a couple who are waiting for the return of a child from addiction.
- There is the waiting and longing for the return to the marriage covenant of a deeply loved spouse. A waiting for a spouse who has fallen out of love, if they ever were in committed love.
- Distance and time take their toll on friendships, and so, I have often found myself waiting for friends to return to relationship over that void of time and distance.
- Saint Monica waited and prayed for 30 years for her reckless son, Augustine to return to her, to God. It is the same prayer of many parents – a return to God for those they love.
This is not the waiting of a friend or relative to return from college, military service or vacation. This is a return from a wasteland, often a chosen wasteland. The waiting is filled with longing and fear. For, some will eventually return, others never do.
How often did the father of today’s parable look up from his farming and wonder if he would ever see his youngest son again? How often did their mother look out the window and perceive the anger rising in her elder son distancing himself from the family? The younger son wasted the father’s material wealth; the elder son wasted the parents’ emotional wealth. The younger son returns; the elder son remains at a distance. Did he ever return into the embrace of the family?
The story, as we have mistakenly misunderstood, is not about the boys. It is about the father, the parents. It is about us. How do we receive and welcome those people who return to us? Family members or friends who have been wasteful, have hurt us by their departure, have made poor decisions for their lives and simply want to return home.
What about people who desire to return to us, the community of believers? Over the years, I have often had the experience in the Sacrament of Reconciliation where a person admits to being away from the Church for 5, 15, 20 years and something has moved within them and they want to come home. How would you respond? My response is: “Welcome back, welcome home”. Since such people usually confess anonymously, I never know who they are to follow up. I can understand the fear and embarrassment they must feel but I hope my, “Welcome home” bridges the distance between us through the confessional screen.
I expect too often we “church people” can have mixed feelings of self-righteousness and judgment in our response when someone wants to return. I know, I do at times. In that situation, we are unaware that WE ARE the elder son and brother who is just as distanced from his parents and needs to return!
Who in your life needs to be found? …to be saved? …to be welcomed home – when they are ready? And if and when they show up on your doorstep, will you welcome them back? How will you welcome them back?
“But his father ordered the servants, ‘Quickly bring the finest robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet…’” [Luke 15:22ff]
Saint Monica, pray for us.