Homily on the Missing Son
by Elena Garcia
March 30, 2019
Most of us are familiar with the gospel parable of the prodigal son. I have for a long time heard it with an ear tuned in to a message of repentance and forgiveness. Well my friends, Sophia has challenged me to expand that understanding in order to view it though a different lens. And she used several sources to help me with this task. Thoughts like “left behind”, “not invited”, “family members missing”, “not feeling welcomed” raced through my mind. And when I shared this with an ARCWP sister I was provided a reading by the Jewish scholar Jill Levine and the following are some of the thoughts I was able to glean from this reading and which confirmed somethings I have known but which had remained in the quiet recesses of my consciousness.
The traditional way of considering this parable as repentance and forgiveness no longer resonates with me. A careful reading of the passage informed my understanding that there was no sin involved which required repentance and forgiveness. There was a family, a father and two sons, one was immature and by our standards, irresponsible, but not necessarily a bad boy. The other was a stay at home son who yearned to be recognized for his efforts to contribute to the family’s wellbeing. And there was a father who loved his two sons and related to each one differently but nevertheless with a love that only a parent could extend. In this story the family was not all present, someone was missing, and that void impacted differently on each member.
Jesus told this story following his observation that he was being criticized for eating and hanging out with undesirables. It all makes sense when we consider that His mission was to enlighten us to the awareness that we are all children of God, all part of the family of God, we are all sisters and brothers, we are all loved by the same parent and as kin we all have a share in the riches of the Kingdom. And each is cherished, loved, gifted and guided according to our individual and collective uniqueness.
And after all this time we still do not get the message. We are all on this same planet with equal rights to the wonderful gifts bestowed on us. Yet we are all about division and exclusiveness, conquering and Empire domination. Empire talk has led many people to believe that we have the right to decide who is included and who is not welcomed at God’s family table. We are at a crossroads in evolution, a time to join Jesus and participate with him in challenging the earthly powers that support division and exclusion. We are the body of Christ. We must struggle to understand and to teach that this is not normal.
We can only wonder what each member of that parable family learned and how they resolved the conflicts of inclusion, appreciation and celebration of each other as members of a family. And also the ripple effect going out to extended family, co-laborers and friends wishing to celebrate the reunification of this family unit.
In preparation for some reflection questions, repeat:
Be still and know that I am God
Be still and know that I am
Be still and know
Questions For Reflection
~Do you feel that Jesus was trying to make us aware of our responsibility to make everyone feel counted?
~ Can you accept and profess a universal connection as siblings to all human beings on our planet?
~How can that acceptance become operative in our lives?