THE FOURTH SUNDAY OF LENT – WEEK OF MARCH 11, 2018
DAILY READING: Luke 15:1–3; 11–32
FOCUS PASSAGE: Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them. “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ So he got up and went to his father. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” (Luke 15:11–20)
This parable illumines itself. We need little prompting to identify with the characters in the story. Luke included the parable as the final part of a trilogy about lost things. We might ask this question: “Who is lost in this story?” Several threads of lostness are woven into the account.
I’m not so interested in following that track today, though. I’m thinking of the younger son and his desire to leave home, to “spend” what he had away from home until he came to nothing. In a sense, he spent what he had received from his family, from his father. The family resources sustained him for awhile, but they could not sustain him forever. At some point he had to find himself apart from his home. He had to discover the resources that were unique to his own experience and spiritual path.
Many of us don’t discover those deeper, spiritual resources within us until we come to the end of all the other resources we’ve inherited, been given, or been taught. It’s easy to coast along on what someone else taught us or what we received from a significant person or what we gained from a single life experience. We can draw on that resource and allow it to support us for a long time, but eventually we come to the point where we’ve received everything it can impart to us.
At some point, we have to wrestle with God and in the struggle come to a sense of what is uniquely ours. We come to our own path. In fact, we may feel like we are making up a path as we go, and sometimes we are! In that struggle we begin to discern the unique shape of our own soul. Typically, though, we have to come to the end of ourselves before that happens. We come face-to-face with our own emptiness.
When I come to this place in my own life, I sometimes verbalize it to God as, “I’m so tired of myself!” That is, I feel worn out trying to live an illusion or attempting to do life with tools that no longer work. For me, it is a statement of surrender that indicates I’m at the “end of me” and ready to be, once again, at the “beginning of God.”
The younger son in the parable, far from being a disreputable role model, actually models the journey to wholeness very well. He takes what the family has given him, spends it, finds that it doesn’t buy happiness, comes to himself, and finally goes back home as a different person.
That’s a good model for wholeness to consider during Lent.
The Lent Weekly Devotional series is written by Jerry Webber, Community Pastor, The Center for Christian Spirituality/Contemplative Worship.