The Icon of Repentance, or of the Prodigal Son, tells us much of the story. I was always sure that I was the guy on the left, tending the pigs. My sibling was the guy on the right, being forgiven. I have never been much of a rebel. Oh, my journey has taken me over some pretty rocky pathways, but I never left my “Father’s” house, in the sense that I never lost my faith. But I heard a homily on this one time and it made me stop and re-think who I am and how I am, as a faithful daughter of the Church.
Quite often, we look around us and in our “heart-of-hearts” think things like, “Wow, compared to that person, I am doing pretty darn good over here.” Or things like, “Thanks be to God I am not like that person.” And if we catch ourselves doing that, we are not the good and faithful son. In the story, when the faithful son complains that his Father has slaughtered the fatted calf for this “bad boy” brother of his, the Father’s response was, “But my son, you are always with me; whatever I have is yours.” (Luke 15:31). And aren’t some of us a little like that? We sit in our comfort zone and we think we are doing all the right things, going to Church, helping those less fortunate than ourselves; we seem to be on the right track. But are we? We have been given EVERYTHING by Our Father. Faith in this world, in this life, is truly everything. What are we doing with everything?
A very good friend of mine and I were talking about her family (one of those “pillar of the community” families), and when I commented to her about what great parents she had, she then said to me, “Oh, they are great all right. They help out at Church; in fact, growing up, they were always at Church. But they weren’t here for us kids. I had sisters having abortions, brothers drinking at school, none of us were exactly virgins! But they were so busy helping others, they forgot about us. It’s why I will never do that to my children.” It struck me so deeply – that conversation was probably about 30 years ago. I have never forgotten that. I have known so many people who do great with others, but fail miserably at home. Some have siblings they never speak to, or parents warehoused in some elder home they never visit. Or children they buy everything for, but whom they never spend time with.
As I sat and listened to Father last night (I love how our Byzantine faith lets us celebrate a feast on the Vigil!!), speak about the prodigal son, he spoke about not only leaving our Father’s house, but squandering our inheritance. He was speaking practically, in what our earthly parents leave for us, but also to what Our Lord has given to us…our faith. He said it is bad enough to spend our inheritance on that car we always wanted, or a piece of jewelry we always wanted to have, but the tragedy is when we squander what Our Lord has given to us. Wouldn’t our parents be happier knowing we share our faith with our children and bring them up in the rich deposit of faith Our Lord left for us, rather than drive a new car? Are we careful with the gifts we have been given?
All these things ran through my mind, as I listened to Father. I became increasingly ashamed of myself. Do all my sons know the faith? I believe they have been shown the faith, through homeschooling and practicing what we believe. As children, they were altar servers at the 6:30 am daily Mass! So, yes, sort of. Do they all live that faith? Not exactly as I had pictured it, no, but I do believe they are men of faith. When I stand before the judgement seat of God (and I think I blogged this before) and He asks me, “What have you done with the souls I entrusted to you?” I hope to be able to reply, “Lord, I set them on the path to You.” And in that regard, I have not squandered my inheritance. I constantly pray for them and constantly have their future laid before the Lord, seeking His intercession in their lives. My love for my children leads me to my knees with God so often, and I pray they find their way to Him. But am I living my inheritance? Sometimes I think I fall woefully short…woefully short. I know, that if I am granted eternity with Our Lord, I will spend it laying face-down, seeking forgiveness for the many ways I have not lived up to the inheritance He prepared for, and gave to, me. I will be happy to have nosebleed seats in Heaven…just being in the general vicinity of Our Lord will be good enough for me, a sinner. “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner,” as the Jesus prayer reminds me.
There are very few people on this earth who are perfect children of God, but all of us are capable of being the Prodigal Son. Because God always – always – forgives us. My prayer, my hope, is that I will constantly and consistently remind myself of this story, so that I can remember not to squander this amazing gift of faith, and to be sure I am sharing it with each and every person in my life.