Archive for February 27th, 2016

Luke 15:11-32: Squandering Our Inheritance

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Bartolomé Esteban Murillo: Return of the Prodigal Son - National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Bartolomé Esteban Murillo: Return of the Prodigal Son – National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

There is a portion of Isaiah’s prophecy (Isaiah 10: 20-27) which speaks to us about holding on to the tiniest thread of hope even when everyone else has walked away, has given up and given in. When all is dark and seems lost forever to the dark ways, somewhere deep, and often hidden, there is a tiny grain of hope. And these tiny grains of hope are Christ who is in each one of us, and in every part of creation.  This Christ is hope.

In the image of the The Return of the Prodigal Son by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo we see the return of the errant son, and the darkness on the face of the envious son who remains. We also see abundant joy on the face of the father who has persisted in remnant hope and love.

This story is familiar to us and yet we benefit from reflecting with the words and the image.

Both sons of this loving father struggle – whether or not they physically or spiritually separate from him.  Both want to inherit the Father’s gifts, both want to experience life and its joys . . . yet are they willing to be remnant? And are we?

Today we reflect on the meaning of remaining, the meaning of hope, and how we too often squander both of these gifts in our own lives.

Do we remain?  Do we abide?  Are we faithful?  Do we offer God our constancy?  Do we embody hope? Do we examine our motives and our conscience?  Do we seek enablers in our lives or do we gather honest, authentic friends around us who love us enough to be careful mirrors?  

We are imperfect creatures, framed by time and space.  Our souls either languish or flourish. They rely on the food and drink we bring them.  They burgeon with prayer.  They wither when they lack Eucharist, Scripture and dialog with Christ.

Our innermost heart is our core which either collapses with neglect or flowers with grace.  Our minds are fed by the images and words we select as most worthy of holding and remembering.  Our bodies weary from their world journey, yet hum with joy when we nourish them well.

Being remnant is a difficult task.  It makes the decision to return after waywardness.  It makes the decision to strengthen its bonds even if it has remained.

Being remnant is an arduous task.  It calls for holding on in the face of impossibility.  It requires that we turn away from the hectic social demands on our time and space.

Being remnant is a beautiful gift. It demands that we make a refuge each moment of every day  to reconnect with God. And it obliges us to look at Murillo’s painting to ask and answer the questions: Who am I?  One of the Sons?  The Forgiving Parent?  The Obliging Servant?  Am I Remnant?  Am I Hope?

Adapted from a Favorite written on June 7, 2008.

We remember our Lenten practice. Rather than thinking: “Let us make three tents to contain the joy of God’s wisdom,” let us think instead, “Let us share the joy of God’s great gift of love”.

Some ancient manuscripts contain verse 44 while others lack it. For commentary on this verse and parable, visit: http://biblehub.com/commentaries/matthew/21-44.htm

Tomorrow, the Samaritan woman. 


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