What about me, Lord?
The Fourth Sunday of Lent
The Return of the Prodigal Son is Rembrandt's elegant rendition of today's Gospel reading. Within it, we see his masterful talent of the three central characters' hands. The father's hands embrace the prodigal son with warmth and forgiveness. One of the father's hands seems quite strong while the other appears gentle and comforting. Ironically, we do not see the prodigal son's hands. One can imagine that while accepting the father's sympathetic embrace, the son's hands are crossed over his heart, accepting the calm from where there was once a restlessness. It is the elder son's hands that invoke a more thoughtful reflection. His hands are clasped together and appear tightly knotted. In fact, the elder son's entire posture is one of 'rigidity'. He looks down in disdain at the intimate scene between his father and brother. If there was a thought bubble above his head to encapsulate his feelings, it might read: "What about me."
So, "What about me, Lord?" If we think about it, how many times do our thoughts mirror that of the elder son? How often do we think in our self-centeredness and ask our Lord, "Have I not done enough to merit your noticing of me?" As today's Gospel is a parable story of our path to redemption, the older son did not have the benefit of our First Reading, "On the same day after the Passover, on which they ate of the produce of the land, the manna ceased. No longer was there manna for the Israelites, who that year at the yield of the land of Canaan."
The eldest son was too busy patting himself on the back to ding what he thought was right rather than to do what he should. He was busy trying to prove to his father his worth and concentrating on his presumed accomplishments. He did not comprehend the Our Father's message to him and us. Everything we have, everything that we are, comes from Him who made us. While we will be provided with what we need in this life, our reward for our life's work and struggle comes to us in the promised land of Heaven.
Today, we are halfway through Lent. A good time to reflect on where we are and how much further we have still to journey on our road to repentance. Our Second Reading also speaks to Elder Son and our need for forgiveness. God has reconciled us to himself through Christ and given us the ministry of reconciliation.
We are physical beings, and God gave us senses for a reason. We need to say the words:
"I am sorry," and we need to hear the words: "You are forgiven." There aren't any more comforting words at certain times other than, "Your sins are forgiven you."
Like the Elder Son, when we think, "What about me?" Perhaps, we might consider: How many times have we judged others? How often have we looked with envy at what someone else has received? How many times have we been unforgiving? St. Augustine wrote a prayer that provides us with guidance:
O Lord, the house of my soul is narrow; enlarge it that thou mayest enter in. It is ruinous, O repair it! It displeases thy sight; I confess it, I know. But who shall cleanse it, or to whom shall I cry but thee? Cleanse me from my secret faults, O Lord, and spare thy servant from strange sins. (St. Augustine, Confessions)
Praise God, when we receive our Lord today in the Blessed Sacrament, let us remember that He was the manna that came down from Heaven. God will provide all that we need in this life to earn our eternal with Him. When we think, "What about me, Lord?" Let our words be: "God, fill me more of You and less of me!"