Fourth Sunday of Lent
March 30-31, 2019
At the beginning of today’s gospel parable, two young men make very different life choices. The older son chooses a life of obedience to his father, while the younger son prematurely demands his inheritance and, leaving home, spends all he was given on wine, women, and song. I claim that both of these decisions have merit, but that both are also deficient as examples of leading the best life possible.
I think that the younger son, though his life is directed wrongly, is in fact living life the way it should be lived. He is living passionately and spontaneously, chasing the desires of his heart. Certainly his life is terribly misguided, but his error is not in the way he lives, but in the path he has elected to follow. The life of adventure he has chosen, sadly, points narcissically right back at himself. His path is full of spirit and energy, but his destination is not the glory of virtue, but the emptiness of self-worship.
The older son, on the other hand, has his life properly oriented. His is a life of virtue, of prudence, and of obedience. But the way he lives this life seems empty. He seems reluctant, even bitter, and basking in self-righteousness. Consider how he himself describes his relationship to his father: “All these years I served you and not once did I disobey you.” This does not sound like the vibrant love a son should have for his father.
We are called, I believe, to integrate the best of both of these men into our lives. Certainly we are called to compliance to the will of the Father, to the virtue and sense of duty that the older son demonstrated, but we should not be content to simply “not disobey” God. No, we are called to express our lives of faith with the wild abandon demonstrated by the younger son. Imagine the power of the Church, the good we could do, if each of us lived his faith with fearless intensity! Imagine the happiness we would all feel if our charity, our hope, and our acts of mercy and kindness echoed throughout the world with the zest with which the younger son embraced life! Christians of the early church changed the world by embracing their faith with a recklessness and joy that could not be contained nor defeated, even by the martyrdom that so many of them experienced. Why do we hold back? Why are we afraid to live this way?
Lent is a time of somber reflection, a time to check that our path is true and directed towards God. But the somberness of Lent must give way to the glory of Easter, not just on the calendar, but in the lives that we live in response to the gospel. Maybe now is the time that we let our relationship to the Father lead us to be daring, to be courageous, to be both-feet-in, no-holds-barred, 110% committed to showing and spreading His love throughout our world!