Pastoral Sharings: "The Prodigal Son"



  Father Cusick
  September 15, 2013
  Twenty-Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time


  Exodus 32, 7-11.13-14; Psalm 51, 3-4.12-13.17.19; 1  
  Timothy 1,12-17; St. Luke 15, 1-32

Our lives in this world take on the character of a journey in very many ways, but none more so than the way of salvation. In our pilgrimage of faith to our heavenly destination we sometimes fall or turn away in discouragement and sin.

At times the steps necessary for our walk back the Father may seem too many and too arduous for us and we hesitate even to make the first move. Perhaps it is only when we see, like the Prodigal Son, the misery that our sins have wrought, that we are then willing to rouse ourselves to sorrow and to take the path of conversion that leads to the merciful embrace of our heavenly Father, so rich in mercy. When we make even the slightest effort in sorrow, with God’s grace, it is then we see the Father waiting with love to embrace us and welcome us home. Rejection of the love and presence of his father, in the communion of live and love as a family, was a terrible choice for the prodigal son. He desired things over people, his share of the inheritance in preference to a life in communion with the father who gave him life and loved him. He wanted the father to be as if dead to him.

Conversion means to come together with a turning point, to make an about face. The parable of the prodigal son is indeed a conversion story, for the son was faced with the choice of a physical turning around and retracing of his steps back to the Fathers house. Even more, this is a story of a spiritual journey, of a turning back of the soul and spirit of man. Such a reorientation is necessary for one who has rejected the Father, choosing the gifts in preference to the Giver in a sinful way and thus rejecting the will and love of the Father.

“The process of conversion and repentance was described by Jesus in the parable of the prodigal son, the center of which is the merciful father: (Cf. Lk 15:11-24.) the fascination of illusory freedom, the abandonment of the father’s house; the extreme misery in which the son finds himself after squandering his fortune; his deep humiliation at finding himself obliged to feed swine, and still worse, at wanting to feed on the husks the pigs ate; his reflection on all he has lost; his repentance and decision to declare himself guilty before his father; the journey back; the father’s generous welcome; the father’s joy – all these are characteristic of the process of conversion. The beautiful robe, the ring, and the festive banquet are symbols of that new life–pure, worthy, and joyful–of anyone who returns to God and to the bosom of his family, which is the Church. Only the heart of Christ who knows the depths of his Father’s love could reveal to us the abyss of his mercy in so simple and beautiful a way.” (CCC 1439)

Sorrow moved the son to return to whatever might have been awaiting him at his Fathers house. Even the most abject of circumstances, to feed with the pigs, would have been welcome after the misery of his sins.

The only effort required was accepting the grace of sorrow. The Father did all the rest; rushing to meet the beloved son, placing rich and beautiful garments upon him, jewels on his fingers and shoes on his feet, and preparing not the food of beasts but instead the finest food imaginable. Far from what he feared, the son’s sorrow brought great happiness back into his life because of the Fathers rich mercy and infinite love.

“Sin is before all else an offense against God, a rupture of communion with him. At the same time it damages communion with the Church. For this reason conversion entails both God’s forgiveness and reconciliation with the Church, which are expressed and accomplished liturgically by the sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation. (Cf. Lumen Gentium 11.)” (CCC 1440)

Our Father, wise as well as loving, shares his wisdom with us as he invites us to live in communion with him, enjoying the gifts in a life of love with the Giver.

The way of the Lord Jesus as we live it in the Father’s house, the universal Church, is our privileged meeting place with the Father whenever we must return in sorrow for our sins. In every confessional, in the person of every priest-confessor, the Father awaits us, rich in mercy, to welcome us back into his house, and to reclothe us again in the magnificent garment of our baptismal graces. May we always have the humility to submit in love to the Father’s wisdom and thus discover the true happiness of our lives with him now in His Church and forever in His kingdom, when the time of the Church will pass away.

(See also Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph numbers 545, 589, 1423,1443, 1468, 1700, 1846, 2795, 2839.)
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Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
September 15, 2013

Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Luke 15:1-32
Gospel Summary

The Pharisees and scribes are complaining that Jesus is a companion of tax collectors and sinners: “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” Jesus responds to the criticism through three parables. In the first two parables, a shepherd’s finding a lost sheep and a woman’s finding a lost coin are compared to the joy of God upon finding a lost sinner. In the third parable, Jesus reveals that God is like a father who welcomes back a prodigal son who had left home and foolishly squandered his share of the estate. Furthermore, the father continues to love an older, resentful son who refuses to join in welcoming back his younger brother.

The Prodigal Son and the Golden Calf
The parable of the Prodigal Son and the drama of Israel’s worship of the Golden Calf are some of the best known of all Bible stories.  So what do the two stories have in common?

Everyone knows the bible stories of the Prodigal Son and the Golden Calf.  But they don’t usually put the two together as this Sunday’s readings do.  So what do the two tales have in common?
24th Sunday: Lost and Found
First of all, last Wed   nesday we remembered the tragic murders that took place nine years ago in New York, Washington DC, and Pennsylvania.  We pray today for all who have died and for an end of violence, particularly violence in the name of religion. We have experienced violence in the name of Islam.  Many others throughout history have experienced violence in the name of Christianity.  God did not reveal Himself to us so we can kill each other.  Violence in the name of religion is an offence against God.  While we are determined to protect our country and citizens from this ever happening again, we also pray for the courage to resist returning violence with violence.  That is the old way, the way of the Old Testament.  It is not the way of Jesus Christ. May those who have suffered on 9/11 and throughout history rest in the arms of the One who is the Prince of Peace.

Living Well On Earth and Entering Heaven: The Nineteen Types of Judgment
There are at least 19 different kinds of judgment that we should distinguish. I’m sorry I could not find a 20th, to match the number of digits on our fingers and toes. But 19 does match the digits of Frodo Baggins, one of my heroes. (I’m sure you remember Frodo of the Nine Fingers, and Gollum of the Eleven.) The importance of the topic wisely assigned to me—judgment—is obvious. For one thing, making judgments is a privilege of persons only. For another thing it is necessary, both to live well on earth and to enter Heaven.

Lament and Wait Quietly for the Lord
Far too frequently we look around our lives and find so much going so wrong.   Sometimes we know what we can do about our problems, and sometimes we don’t.  But that’s where faith comes in.  Here’s what I mean:

The sixth century before Christ was a time of tremendous pain for the Israelites.  The Temple had been destroyed, the nation ceased to exist, and religious ritual had gone to ruin.  The people were sad and worried and had little hope for the world itself.  This is how Jeremiah wrote about it in the Book of Lamentations.

Suffering? 10 Lessons We Can Learn From The Agony In The Garden
Over the course of our lives, it is inevitable that we will experience suffering. It is also inevitable that this suffering will cause us to ask many questions:

Why me?

What should I do?

Is it okay to feel anxious or sad?

Can God help me?

Fortunately for us, the answers to each of these (any many more) questions about suffering can be found by studying Jesus’ actions on the night before He died. Here are 10 lessons that we can learn from the Agony in the Garden.

Did Pope Francis Really Say Atheists Will Go to Heaven?
The mainstream media have been spinning as story this week, saying that Pope Francis has taught that God will forgive atheists and they’re good as long as they simply obey their conscience….well not quite.

The Parable of The Vineyard Workers: Divine Mercy in Action
One of my favorite Scripture stories is the Parable of The Vineyard Workers ( Matthew 20:1-16) wherein a landowner pays the exact same pay to workers who work different amounts of the day, much to the subsequent anger of the original workers who worked an entire day for, as it turns out, the same pay as those who had only worked a few hours. We can all relate to those workers who worked the full day. Not fair! Are you kidding me? This is an outrage! Imagine how you would feel if a co-worker who worked three hours was given the same pay as you were given for eight hours of work.

The Mass and Our Love for Jesus
Over the past several months I have had some on-line discussions with folks regarding the Traditional Latin Mass versus the Novus Ordo Mass, both of which are valid and approved by our popes. For many of us converts and reverts, the reason we became Catholic was because God opened our hearts to the reality that he is indeed present here on earth with us in the “breaking of the bread.” Jesus becomes our real food and real drink- his flesh and blood during the consecration in mass, whether NO or TLM.

The Pope, The Clown, and The Cross
In 1957 comedian Red Skelton was on top of the world. His weekly comedy show on CBS was doing well. He had  curtailed the drinking which had almost derailed his career. Not too shabby for a man who had started out as a circus and rodeo clown and who was now often called the clown prince of American comedy. He and his wife Georgia had two beautiful kids: Richard and Valentina Maria. Then the worst thing in the world for any parent entered into the lives of Red and Georgia Skelton: Richard was diagnosed with leukemia. Unlike today, a diagnosis of leukemia in a child in 1957 was tantamount to saying that Richard was going to die soon. Red immediately took a leave of absence from his show. CBS was very understanding and a series of guest hosts, including a very young Johnny Carson, filled in for Skelton during the 1957-1958 season.

When God is Silent
We rarely hear God speaking to us, in the sense of audible words.

But God nonetheless still often speaks to us—whether it be through a Scripture that set our hearts on fire, the words of a priest in the pulpit or confessional, a prayer or hymn that happens to address our deepest concerns and worries at just the right moment, or even the thoughts God stirs within us while contemplating the mysteries of the rosary or the lives of the saints.

Notes on the Beatitudes
It’s appropriate that we start the journey of the study of Christianity with the summary of the life of a Christian that Jesus gave us in the preamble to the Sermon on the Mount. In the same way that the Bill of Rights is the essence and spirit of all that follows in the US Constitution, the Beatitudes provide the core of the Christian difference that is expounded on in the rest of the New Testament.

10 Ways to Revitalize the Catholic Church
Reform is afoot in the Vatican. Pope Francis has tightened the reins on the Vatican Bank, worked through a grueling visit to Brazil, named a new secretary of state, and is now preparing for the October meeting of cardinals who will advise him on how to

breathe new life into the Catholic Church.

The new pope’s agenda is simple: spread the good news of Jesus Christ in a freer and more convincing way. Christ stated the church’s mission very plainly: “Go out and make disciples of all the nations.”

A Pope Who Knows How To Pope
Anna Romano is a woman in Rome who became pregnant by her lover. He is married, and told her he wouldn’t take care of the baby. The cad advised her to get an abortion. Desperate, she wrote to Pope Francis for advice.

The Pope picked up the phone and called her. Italy’s Il Messagero has more, in Italian (translation by Google and me):

Fatima and World Peace
The apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima in 1917 in the midst of World War I and at the outset of the Soviet “October Revolution” have had long-range historical effects.

The prelude to the Fatima apparitions was the appearance in the spring of 1916 of an angel, who identified himself as the “angel of peace” to three Portuguese children: Lucia, Jacinta, and Francisco. The angel appeared to them again in the summer, telling them that heaven had “designs of mercy” and teaching them to offer prayers and sacrifices. He appeared a third time in the fall, offering the children the Eucharist.

No Obedience No Heaven
Where there is no obedience, there is no virtue; where there is no virtue, there is no good; where there is no good there is no love; where there is no love, there is no God; and where there is no God, there is no Paradise”  – St. Padre Pio

I became a Catholic because I came to believe in the authority of the church. I had really come to believe that the Lord Jesus Christ delegated his authority to Peter and that the Bishop of Rome was Peter’s successor. Furthermore, I believed that the validly consecrated bishops of the Catholic Church were the successors to the apostles, and the priests were their “fingers”.

Sins, Despair, and the Love of God
“For love of souls, I instituted the Sacrament of Penance, that I might forgive them, not once or twice, but as often as they need it to recover grace. There I wait for them, longing to wash away their sins, not in water, but in My Blood. How often in the course of the ages have I, in one way or another, made known My love for men: I have shown them how ardently I desire their salvation. I have revealed My Heart to them. This devotion has been as light cast over the whole earth, and today by its means those who labour to gain souls to My service have been enabled to do so.” – Our Lord’s words to Sister Josepha Menéndez.

Learning from the Poor
During a conversation with my 23-year-old son, he told me that a lot of his friends like our new pope. This isn’t the measure of the greatness of the man, but it is good to see some of Pope Francis’ major themes resonating with the young. Among the most prominent of these themes, something that rings true with a generation struggling to gain financial footing during a time of extended economic turmoil, is the pope’s concern for the poor.

One of the constant challenges I get from my classes regarding the Church’s teaching on the existence of hell is that this doctrine is incompatible with their idea of a merciful God. “My God is a God of Mercy, Troy, and He wants all to be saved. That’s in the Bible!” Which is true, God does will all men to be saved, but under certain conditions. Ah, there’s the rub! Not abiding by these conditions may cause some souls, perhaps even many souls, to end up going to hell forever. This brings us back to the problem of Divine Mercy. Many Catholics believe that there is a contradiction between Divine Mercy and the existence of hell.

Women: Save your marriage. In five minutes
This is going to sound like a cheesy testimonial, but stay with me.

Ladies, if you have been struggling in your relationship with your husband (and sooo many women do), I know a way that you can begin to change — even save — your marriage. In five minutes.

Trust me on this. I’ve seen it happen first hand.

Peacemaking in Family Life
War seems so familiar these days it is easy to forget we are made for peace.  By this, I do not mean that we are readily or easily peaceful but rather that our happiness is closely linked to peace.   It is part of the reason why, I think, Christians should focus on peacemaking in marriage.

In a recent “The Public Square,” R. R. Reno noted that “It was peace, not love, that early Christians emphasized in their rituals and prayers for marriage”, citing ancient marriage rites for support.

Comedy Writer Tom Leopold: Finding God—and Laughs—in the Midst of Suffering
In the course of my ministry as a teacher, lecturer, and retreat master, I hear, perhaps more than any other question, the following: “how do I know what God wants?” Put in more formal theological language, this is the question concerning the discernment of God’s will. Many people who pose it tell me that they envy the Biblical heroes—Moses, Jeremiah, Jacob, David, etc.—who seem to have received direct and unambiguous communication from God. I usually remind them that even those great Scriptural figures wrestled mightily with the same issue. And then typically I draw their attention to Job, the person in the biblical tradition who anguished most painfully over the matter of discerning what in the world God is doing.

Ariel Castro: Why There Is Purgatory—- and Hell
Ariel Castro was to have spent a millennium in prison. That was his punishment after being found guilty of 937 criminal counts, including kidnapping, rape and murder. To be more exact, he was to serve life plus 1,000 years.

But after just about a month, he tied a bed sheet around his neck and cut short his life and his punishment.

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