Jos 5:9a, 10-12; Ps 34:2-7; 2 Cor 5:17-21; Lk 15:1-3, 11-32
A Father and His Children – Today’s Gospel tells of a Father who wants to give His children everything. One son demands his share of the inheritance immediately and then goes off and squanders the riches in the most irresponsible way. The second son has lived in His father’s prosperity all his life and fails to recognize and appreciate all that has been given to him. In their lack of appreciation and understanding both sons likely under interpret their responsibility to others as well; how to best share this wealth for the good of others. The first son realizes his sinfulness and restores his relationship with the father. We don’t yet know how the second son responds.
We also know that life can be very long and complex. We can only speculate how the relationship between the brothers eventually developed or deteriorated. And how about the rest of the workers on the estate? Did some side with the younger brother and maybe even held a little fascination about his adventure? Did they resent him for his still favored position on the farm? Did some of the workers side with the older brother and further stoke the resentment that stewed within him? What were family meals like over the ensuing weeks, months and years? This readjustment was likely a very long, indeed lifelong process.
One might suspect that the younger son was able to develop a much deeper appreciation for the extraordinary generosity and mercy of the father. He would have likely understood the need to extend that same mercy and generosity to others … especially outside the genetic lineage. The older brother is actually the more curious character and even a bit more intriguing in that he might be more typical of most of us good Church-goin’ folk.
While we have made some efforts to care for the inheritance we have received, do we really appreciate the true wealth we have received through little or no merit of our own?
Lent is a time when try to pay more attention to our prayer lives, to fast from the many untempered appetites that fill not only our stomachs but permeate our whole lives with all too many random distractions, temptations and general business, little of which is leading us to the Kingdom of God. And of course Lent is a time to be more attentive and generous to those particularly struggling on the margins of civilized living standards. As you know Holy Mother Church gives you many opportunities to share your hard-earned money for the common good.
But what about our inheritance? Those of us who have lived primarily in post WWII America have lived in a time of unprecedented prosperity and peace (presuming we have been able to avoid the many smaller combat opportunities our country seems to always offer up. – Interestingly, for a number of reasons, since the military draft ended in 1973 less than one percent of American adults serve in the active duty armed forces). Prosperity and peace for most of us. We tend to take it for granted.
We also inherited a thriving Catholic Church which at least seemed to be very much intact. We know now that there were many more deficiencies and fractures in the Church than most of us could have ever imagined back in the sixties. But it was there, waiting to be explored.
As active Catholics and upon deeper reflection, we would probably count our Church as our greatest inheritance. One we were likely born and baptized into as children. We likely took it for granted and maybe have even thought more about what the Church was NOT giving us than about the vast and profound Tradition that we inherited. Ironically, but perhaps understandably, it is often the adult converts to Catholicism who have a deeper appreciation and curiosity by virtue of having been somewhere else that did not satisfy. Our journey with the new converts enriches the whole Church as we learn to see through the eyes of others’ perhaps more immediate faith journey.
Lent is a good time to consider our appreciation of this great inheritance we have received from the Father. It has always been with us. Are we growing in our appreciation and sharing of the gift or are we squandering it. It seems that one implies the other. If we are not conscientiously learning, living and sharing our Tradition, we are squandering it even if we never deliberately leave the Church.
Our response to the Synodal process might be some indication of our appreciation for what has been passed on to us from thousands of years of Religious Tradition. How are we passing along the riches of the Father?
We have just completed our scheduled sessions for this Synod. A total of eight different people attended the live sessions locally over the two week period. Others may have submitted a written reply to the various questions to Fr. Bittmenn in St. George or Bishop Solis in Salt Lake City which was an option. While the turnout locally was a bit underwhelming, to put it mildly, it does give us a sort of new baseline for realistic pastoral planning. The very nature of our Sunday Eucharistic Celebrations proclaim that we are a people ‘Becoming One Body; One Spirit in Christ.’ This of course does not happen magically when everyone plops a consecrated host in their mouths at roughly the same time, but rather requires real community building with real people who have a real desire to actually get to know each other and who have a real appreciation of the Church’s meaning and mission. It’s almost always a good time for renewal and increased religious formation.
I’ve included in the written form of this homily, which can be found on our website, a couple of the excellent topics we discussed that had us considering more closely the areas of community building, religious formation and mission. Please take some time to look at these topics.
Authority and Participation: A synodal Church is a pariticpatory and co-rsponsible Church. Ow does our Churdh community identify the goals to be pursued, thw way to reach them. And he steps to be taken? How is authority or governance exercised within our local Church? How are teamwork and co-responsibility put into practice? How are evaluations conducted and by whom: How are evaluations conducted and by whom: How are lay ministries and the responsibility of lay people promoted? Have we had fruitful experiences for syndodality on a local level? How do synodal bodies function at the level of the local Church (Pastoral Councils, parishes and dioceses, Presbyteral Council, etc.)? How can we foster a more synodal approach in our participation and leadership?
Forming Ourselves in Synodality: Synodality entails receptivity to change, formation and ongoing learning. How does our church community form people to be more capable of ‘walking together, listening to one another, participating in mission, and engaging in dialogue? What formation is offered to foster discernment and the exercise of authority in a synodal way?
Also, consider taking some time to send Fr. Dave a message, particularly about the topics just presented. Since he is the pastor and I do not have a specific tenure in this parish, he should be aware of the level of zeal Kane County Catholics have for their faith going forward. I think of particular importance would be our relative readiness to welcome new converts or Reverts into the inheritance we have received. Please do this. It will help Fr. Dave envision some type of continuity and uniformity in his oversight of the Southwest Deanery.
In this time of looming war once again in Europe and we see the often inspiring stand the Ukranian people are taking to preserve and develop their fledgling democracy, we might reflect on the great inheritance we have enjoyed as Americans. Like the younger son, we may not fully appreciate what we have (or had) until we lose it. Like the older son, we might take it for granted and likely complain more about what we aren’t getting than all that we have already received.
Our polarized and fragile democracy which we have allowed to unravel is mostly the direct result of our squandering of our first inheritance. The one we have only loosely passed along. What if Jesus is really God? What if Jesus really established the Catholic Church and the priesthood and instituted the Eucharist? What if the Eucharist is actually the Body and Blood of Jesus? What if Pentecost really happened and our grandchildren don’t even know about the gifts of the Holy Spirit? Would it matter if the next generation of political leaders in our country don’t have any knowledge of God’s Wisdom, Knowledge, Understanding and Strength which are just a few of the gifts of Pentecost? Would that affect their ability to deliberate and compromise for the common good?
Where on earth would they ever learn such thing??!!
The Office of Life, Peace and Justice from our Diocese has regularly offered a number of ways to inform and guide our State Legislature with the Church’s wisdom. As this most recent legislative session closes they have offered several ways to guide our representatives on several issues. I hope many of you have subscribed to their Prayer and Action Network for specific ways to share our inheritance.
With two weeks of Lent remaining, we might take some time to ask God how we can individually and collectively strengthen and pass along our cherished inheritances. God is with us and ESPECIALLY as we now enter more deeply into this Sacred Liturgy.