Monday, November 10, 2014
Should I Move?
I’ve meditated on the Parable of the Prodigal Son many times, and I’ve written about my insights from this one parable here a number of times. I thought I had seen things presented there from just about all angles. I was wrong.
Lk 15: 11-32
In my class this week, we were asked to meditate on Scripture, but with a focus on sin, the sin shown in the Bible and our own sin. The first few days of readings and meditations were about the big sins: the fallen angels, Adam and Eve, and the big sins in the world. I admit that little came to me personally, and I didn’t feel any presence of God in my musings. Then I read the passage from Luke, the passage I read dozens of times, and I was given a new insight.
The Prodigal Son takes property from his father, a future inheritance, now, and treats it as if it were totally his --- but the reality was that the property was his father’s to use until such time as he gifted it to the son. But the son wanted it now. I saw that the son was justified in receiving what he needs from his father, which the father would willingly give, but the rest is, if anything, a gift in the son’s care to be used in serving the father’s will. But that’s not how he treated it.
I recalled how I took the gift of life and talent nurtured in me by my father and selfishly used them as if they were solely mine. I never really concerned myself much in what the needs of his life were, as the years past.
The Prodigal Son took the blessings given him by his father and moved to a faraway place. He lived his life totally separate from his father, who loved him so much. There are no words about what the father felt when his son went away. He just let him go. So did my dad. I recalled how I had moved away to a far away city after college, “to begin to live my life,” as if it were mine alone to nurture from then on. Some would say that this was a “cutting the apron strings,” and a good thing. “We are meant to leave the nest and fly away.” But thinking on this Parable, I recalled my youth, where all my aunts and uncles and grandparents and cousins all lived in the same town, mere blocks away from each other. And I recalled all the family gatherings, and I recalled the time I went to my aunt’s house and cried to her, when things weren’t going so well at home. And my family, all of them, were there for me.
But I moved away; I lived alone in a distant city and now my grandparents, parents, sister and brother have died, and I know where few of my cousins even live; most moved away as I did. The Parable of the Prodigal Son showed me a lesson this day --- family is MOST important in our lives. We need family to be part of our lives; family continues to nurture us as we live our adult lives, until they age and reach a point where we begin to nurture them. That is what families do. That is what families are meant to do. That is how we are meant to live, in social structures of love.
(I know there are some who would say: “well, I can’t stand my father, or my mother, or siblings. I moved to get away from them.” To these I’d just remind about the command to love. Perhaps your family didn’t love you, but that does not negate your obligation to love them. Perhaps they don’t want your love, but living near them they can see your love, they can see your example, they can be nurtured by you without their trying, or your trying. But you certainly can’t love your neighbor if you never see him, and he never sees you.)
The Prodigal Son squandered all his property on himself and his pleasures. I focused my talents and gifts on myself, my career, and obtaining things I wanted --- or perhaps thought I should have, a kind of just payment for my labors. I worked for what I wanted, a good thing, but once I received money for my labor, I thought it was all mine, earned solely by me. I forgot about the gifts and talents nurtured in my by my father. They were his investments in me, but I took his investment and all I earned from it, and looking back, yes, I squandered it on myself and what I thought important. Oh, I was in contact and visited my parents occasionally, but they truly weren’t part of my life, not like family. They didn’t see up close the fruits of their labors.
After his assets were gone, the Prodigal Son’s talents were used by another to feed his swine. He had nothing. There were people around me who valued my assets and talents, and they readily took them for their use, not caring about me. The friends I chose were a lot like me; they cared about themselves. Our ties were not so much love of others, as that we loved to give the same things to ourselves. Jobs, hobbies, houses, cars, they liked the things we liked, and so somehow we thought that meant we liked one another.
We didn’t know the meaning of love.
No one gave the Prodigal Son anything. At a certain point in my life, I felt alone among my “friends.”
But then the Prodigal Son remembered his father, and went home. I remembered my heavenly Father (or in truth, He called to me). I came home to Him and confessed my sins, and he forgave me. We’re going on together now, as family. But in this, our discussion on the Prodigal Son, He showed me something: I had also sinned against my earthly father, in all the examples shown above, and I never confessed my sins to him, nor sought earthly penance. By moving away and not keeping him as part of my family, I did not honor him, as the commandment said: Honor thy father and thy mother, that you might have eternal life.
And I thought: do I deserve eternal life?
I don’t think children are meant to move away from parents, to not be part of their life. It is to not honor them, disobeying the 4th Commandment, so great a sin that our eternal life is placed in balance. It is a breaking up of family to move far away, as big as if you separated yourself from the Church, yet we take it as such a little thing. There is a saying: “You can always go home.” Unsaid is why: Because the father is waiting there to love you.
It is something He deserves; it is something we need --- to gain eternal life.
The Church is our spiritual family, but it is also our earthly family. If we ARE far away from our parents and siblings, it may not be possible to move close with any ease. We can use the social media to get closer, and we should. We can get closer to our Church family, and we should. I am investigating joining a 3rd Order Franciscan family; it seems the right thing to do. I need family.
So do you.