LENT IV (C)
I shall get up and go to my father …. – Luke 15: 18
The so-called prodigal son is a bit like a little boy who went out with his father to water the lawn. The father put the front end of the hose in his son’s hand, but nothing happened. His son complained, “What’s wrong? No water is coming out.” The father replied, “Of course not. You’re standing on the hose.”
The younger son in today’s parable did all of the things people do when they are standing on the hose. He had abandoned those who loved him; he became totally self-centered; he squandered the inheritance he had been given; he indulged himself in every passing pleasure; & because it was all “Me! Me! Me!” he ceased to grow as a human being. He grew old only in the sense that when you stop growing you are old, no matter what your age is! Then something happened that changed his whole life. He turned it around. He came to his senses. He took his feet off the hose & said, “I shall get up & go to my father….” And they were reconciled.
A light house was built off the rocky coast of a remote island in the Pacific ocean. The natives had never seen one before, & during construction they had watched with great interest. When the day came for it to be tested, they gathered at the water’s edge watching & listening when a heavy fog rolled in. After some time, they slowly disbanded with disgust. One of the project engineers proudly asked one of the locals what he thought of the operation. The fellow replied with a snort, “The light shines, the bell rings, the horn blows, but the fog keeps on just the same.”
We live in a society filled with depression & anxiety – a fog bound society in which everyone seems to be looking for a magic formula to make the fog disappear. Someone writes a “me first” book that says, in effect, “Put yourself first & you’ll be happy.” Another writes a “get rich quick” book saying in effect, “Make lots of money & that will make you happy.” Both books become instant best sellers, but the fog keeps on just the same. Then, of course, there are the light shining, bell ringing horn blowing TV commercials with their promise of the good life. You may remember the man whose happiness lay in squeezing bathroom tissue. The point is, we can own an expensive car, invest in the stock market, drink light beer, take extra-strength pills, become a fast food addict, & even squeeze the bathroom tissue – but the fog keeps on just the same.
During Lent we focus on the call of Jesus that He gives us every day of the year: the call to put everything aside; to follow Him into the wilderness & get our life together; to harmonize with the Father’s will our own understanding of who we are & what we should be doing with our lives. In our fog-bound society we are conditioned to live as less than fully functioning human beings. We are conditioned to settle for less than the abundant new life our Lord offers us. But Jesus never gives up on us, even when we give up on ourselves.
Again & again, He takes us in His arms & asks us to take our feet off the hose so that the Father’s grace may flow freely & heal us. Again & again, He tells us (in the face of our intransigent disbelief) that His love really is unconditional, that He really accepts us, warts & all. We may think it too good to be true; but all we have to do to find out is “to get up & go to our Father.” His effusive reaction might just overwhelm us like the prodigal son was. AMEN!