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. 


  1. This is a wonderful post. A really wonderful post. Because when we begin to put ourselves in another's shoes and think about how what we did may have affected them, then I think we're finally starting to tell ourselves the truth.

    When I was in college, I saw the same thing you describe --- all these young people moving sometimes thousands of miles away from their families, breaking family ties, happy to be getting away. I found it heartbreaking. I couldn't really understand it. I couldn't explain it to myself. I intended to, and did, move back to my home city. The only way I would have moved far away would have been for a temporary training stint, and would have returned to live nearby family. If that wasn't the job, I wasn't going.

    One of my brothers moved his family to the Gulf Coast, 1000 miles away, when the kids were just 3 and six months. It was devastating to be torn away from him and from the chance of ever really knowing the children. My parents had already lost one of my brothers to illness, and losing this brother to distance was like another death. I don't think he, even now, gives that move a second thought. I really hurt them, and me. Very much.

    In my own life I always felt that I owed my parents involvement in my life. I always felt I owed them a continuing close relationship, even when I was annoyed by them, or when what they wanted me to do interfered with what I wanted to do. But it was only when I was about 35 I came to understand I did not appreciate them enough. This realization was precipitated by a stupid incident when my mom arranged donating my old car to a charity for me, making the calls and scheduling the pickup. I was shocked when the tow guy was at the house, and she asked me to sign over the title. After he left I raged at her: how DARE she make decisions about MY property in such a way, as if I were a child and unable to decide what I wanted to do? She just stood there, shocked at my anger, and visibly sorry she had ever done anything about it. But the next day it hit me. I was an idiot. An ungrateful idiot. She had saved me time, effort and energy, and had gotten me about $3500 for an old car that was just sitting in back of the house while I drove my new car. And so I went over to her house and apologized and thanked her for what she had done for me, out of love for me. I told her I realized she had done me a huge favor, and I acted like a jerk. I saw what she had done was a goodness to me and not done to hurt me. Or insult me. But to help me. Out of love.

    I grew up that day. I realized I needed to be as respectful to my parents and their actions as I would be to my boss at work. I needed to see things through their eyes, and accept what they did for me not as a churlish child saying 'I can do it MYSELF!' but as a grateful daughter, humbling myself to their rightful authority over me, accepting their desire for the very best for me.

    I remember one time I read a post of a tender moment between your mother and yourself, when you leaned over her in bed to kiss her goodnight, and she patted your face and said something like, 'you're a good son.' That's our good moms. That's our good dads. We treat them like cr@p, and they love us just the same. They see the good in us, even when we're selfish and turn our backs on them. They're just like the prodigal's father. When we repent, they ignore our apologies and throw their rich cloak over us, and put a ring on our finger, and rejoice in having us back. Such love. Such love.

    This really is a wonderful post. Very deep. Very insightful. Very filled with the Holy Spirit. God bless you.

  2. I am glad you perceived, Fran, what my poor wording was trying to convey. If it is good, it is indeed from the Holy Spirit.