This is my homily for 14 March 2010, third Sunday of Lent. Feel free to respond with comments. To view the readings, go to http://www.usccb.org/nab and click “March 14” in the calendar.
[__01.] Having two sons was a man with some land and livestock and profitable investments and property.
The sons, the children of the family come from a highly privileged class and productive agricultural operation and family business. Whether they actually work on the farm or not is unclear.
Surely, both sons must have some work and responsibility around the house and barn, doing their fair share, right?
The older son would claim he’s dong more than his fair share, surpassing his brother in responsibility and righteousness, at least in his own mind.
[__02.] We naturally associate work with the earning of money. And, for those of us who may be in the job market, looking for work, we are acutely aware of the connection between work and money.
Coming here to pray about this search is a good thing, whether to pray for perseverance – in a storm – or to pray about which we way to turn.
While the search for work can be a lonely one, we come here to remember Christ is with us – on the pavement.
[__03.] These two sons of the father, in the Prodigal Son parable, are, however, not looking for work.
In fact, there is more than enough work and and money for both of them at home.
(ASIDE ? – The younger son, at first is looking for something other than work … anything but an honest day’s work and the older son may be simply keeping score rather than keeping up his responsibilities. I think we all do both things – we shrink from our true responsibilities at time and we compare our performance to those of others, seeking self-justification.)
[__04.] The brothers are not always fully aware of this.
It is in their work at home that they could discover their fulfillment. Ironically, the younger son realizes he could be much happier in these ordinary tasks, even menial tasks at home.
In other words, we might say (or sing) he would be happier sweeping the streets he used to own.
The older son, on the other hand, seems not to take any pleasure in the tasks he has been given to carry out lo’ all these years.
[__05.] What are our chores at home? What is our work at home?
whether watering the plants or washing the car.
whether taking out the recycling or taking the children to school
whether doing our homework or going to Home Depot
All of these regular everyday tasks are opportunities for us to make a gift of ourselves to others.
The 2 sons of the family have had a little trouble realizing this; the younger one catches on a little more quickly.
By the way, it is a feature of Jewish scripture and teaching to turn the tables on the rights of the elder and first born children. Note that it is Joseph who is sold into slavery by his elder brothers and Joseph who becomes their hero and redeemer later in Egypt.
Also, youngest son of Jesse, his son David, is anointed the new king of Israel.
Sometimes, it is the younger ones who learn lessons more quickly than the older ones in the family.
In this family, the younger son discovers his fulfillment in serving – doing his work around the house and barn - for the family, and his father. The older son has not yet caught on.
[__06.] These everyday tasks seem to hinder “life”, or life in the fast lane.
But, he really discovers his life when he returns to these ordinary tasks, returns to his father, willing to be a servant.
[__07.] There is a celebration waiting, a surprise party. In a sense, there is a new inheritance, even more to inherit.
The son is there – as we are also here during Lent and Easter – to inherit our identity as children of God … part of his household and family.
Receiving his grace and forgivness, we not only receive the just reward of our labor, but we also participate in God’s grace and blessing by receiving our labor, by recognizing that there is still work to do.