Vortex Term 3 Week 9
To the friends and families of the St Edmund’s Community,
Vibrant Spirit. Strong Character. Tailored Learning.
The Gospel reading of last Sunday (Luke 15:1-32) gave us the well-known parable of the lost son (or the prodigal son). The Gospel reading follows the first reading (Exodus 32:7-11, 13-14) which has as its focus Moses being able to change God’s mind when God became angry with the Israelites for worshiping idols. Moses appealed to God and won God’s pardon for the Israelites. There is a strong sense here of God’s forgiveness and Moses’ promise of conversion of his people.
The second reading (1 Timothy 1:12-17) has Paul writing to his protégé Timothy about his conversion and how grateful he is to God for leading him to a path of faith and service from his previous life of blasphemy, violence and persecution, “the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus”. Again, we have emerging here a strong sense of forgiveness and conversion with Paul grateful to God for forgiving his previous life and leading him to his conversion.
This then leads us to the Gospel reading. For a long time I didn’t quite know what to make of this parable. Whilst I understood the willingness of the father to welcome back his lost son, I always thought that the other brother was always dealt with in too harsh a manner. He was a hard worker, he served his father well and had devoted his life to working his father’s land. To me it seemed perfectly understandable that he was angry in how easy the father welcomed back the other son, gave him his best robe, gave him a ring and sandals and had the best calf killed for a lavish feast.
It wasn’t until quite recently that I read the parable more carefully in the context of the wider reading that it made more sense to me. Firstly, Jesus tells the parable in the company of “tax collectors and sinners”, knowing that the Pharisees and scribes are nearby grumbling about the company Jesus is keeping (a company of outcasts). We have at the outset and idea of Jesus’ recurring theme of reaching out to the marginalised. The parable of the lost son follows the shorter parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin. Jesus tells the parables as a defence against the criticism he is receiving for the welcome he is giving to the outcasts and the fact that he is sharing a meal with them. Jesus celebrates the lost ones being “found” or “re-found” by God. A shepherd cares so much for one lost sheep that he leaves ninety-nine behind in the wilderness. A woman expends significant energy to find her lost coin, and then hosts a party that likely costs her more than the coin is worth. A father showers gifts upon his disrespectful, wasteful son, simply because the son shows up.
This has helped to clarify my understanding of the brother’s reaction and how inappropriate it is. The brother is obsessed with duty and rules. He has worked hard for his eventual inheritance and has done the right thing day after day. Whilst this is admirable on one level, it also means that he does not allow anything softer or more human in his life. He is not happy to see his brother who has been missing for many months and has caused sorrow for his father; he is not happy that his father is overwhelmed with joy to gain his lost son and he is far too miserable to want to join in the celebrations. He does not forgive his brother – he shuns forgiveness and is skeptical of his brother’s conversion. He lives in joyless resentment.
The whole mission of Jesus is to lead people to God and to show people how much God values them by publicly celebrating them. All the parables this week point directly to that mission. The first step in reclaiming a human life is forgiveness, and the pathway to the reclaiming of human life is conversion.
The prodigal son returns home and says, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” The son makes it very clear that he knows he has hurt both God and his father. The forgiveness and acceptance of God is seen in the father’s response to the angry brother. The brother chastises his father for indulging his younger son and ignoring the dedication and hard work of the older brother, but the father says to him, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.”
St Edmund’s College is very much a Catholic environment. All members of staff and all students come to school each day knowing that they are in a Catholic school in the Edmund Rice tradition. Forgiveness is a vital part of this tradition. Of course we have rules and consequences for breaking the rules (imagine any large organisation without rules and consequences!), but these rules and consequences always have to do with the action, not the person. Every day we work to build up those around us and allow them to be the best person they can be. We embrace the marginalised, we look for the lost and we forgive those who have hurt us and hurt others. It is only in doing this can we grow as individuals and be the person God wants us to be.
R U OK
I came across this passage last week and was immediately drawn in by its powerful message. I am not sure if it is a direct extract from A.A.Milne’s Winnie the Pooh collection or if it is an adaptation. Regardless, it is a beautiful extract that focuses on the importance of relationships and the nature of genuine relationships. This is a very important reflection for us having just come out of RU OK week. Please take the time to read this carefully.
“It occurred to Pooh and Piglet that they hadn’t heard from Eeyore for several days, so they put on their hats and coats and trotted across the Hundred Acre Wood to Eeyore’s house.
Inside the house was Eeyore.
“Hello Eeyore,” said Pooh.
“Hello Pooh. Hello Piglet” said Eeyore, in a glum sounding voice.
“We just thought we’d check on you,” said Piglet, “because we hadn’t heard from you, and so we wanted to know if you were okay.”
Eeyore was silent for a moment. “Am I okay?” he asked, eventually. “Well, I don’t know, to be honest. Are any of us really okay? That’s what I ask myself. All I can tell you, Pooh and Piglet, is that right now I feel really rather sad, and alone, and not much fun to be around at all.
Which is why I haven’t bothered you. Because you wouldn’t want to waste your time with someone who is sad, and alone, and not much fun to be around at all, would you now.”
Pooh looked and Piglet, and Piglet looked at Pooh, and they both sat down, one on either side of Eeyore in his stick house.
Eeyore looked at them in surprise. “What are you doing?”
“We’re sitting here with you,” said Pooh, “because we are your friends. And true friends don’t care if someone is feeling sad, or alone, or not much fun to be around at all. True friends are there for you anyway. And so here we are.”
“Oh,” said Eeyore. “Oh.” And the three of them sat there in silence, and while Pooh and Piglet said nothing at all; somehow, almost imperceptibly, Eeyore started to feel a very tiny little bit better.
Because Pooh and Piglet were there.
No more; no less.”
You celebrate when one of your lost children is found because no one is worthless to you.
We stand humbled and in awe that you would count us among your most prized possessions.
Give us eyes to see the priceless value of every living soul,
for the sake of the one who became human for the sake of our souls,
Jesus Christ our seeker.
Blessed Edmund Rice, pray for us.
Live Jesus in our Hearts, forever.
Christus Lux Mea