Fourth Sunday of Lent – Fr. Dustin Collins
March 30, 2019 – 5:00 pm
In our Gospel we encounter this man whom as we are told: “squandered his inheritance on a life of dissipation.” Dissipation takes on many manifestations, to name a few of these: debauchery, intemperance, overconsumption, drunkenness, and promiscuity. This man thought that he knew what would fulfill the longing of his heart and yet he was wrong. He ended up realizing that only with the love of his father and his mercy could he come to be fulfilled.
The opposite of dissipation is asceticism. Asceticism is taking self-discipline over forms of indulgence. It’s foundation is the Greek word, askesis, which means to practice. We know that if an athlete is to excel at a given sport that they must first practice. As Saint Paul states from his First Epistle to the Corinthians concerning asceticism: “Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air; but I discipline my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”
In CS Lewis’ third book in his Chronicle of Narnia series, The Horse and His Boy, he gets to the very heart of asceticism and the goal to which it leads. Here we encounter Hwin, who is a talking horse from Narnia. Quoting from this book: “Then Hwin, though shaking all over, gave a strange little neigh and trotted across to the Lion. “Please,” she said, “you’re so beautiful. You may eat me if you like. I’d sooner be eaten by you than fed by anyone else.” “Dearest daughter,” said Aslan, planting a lion’s kiss on her twitching, velvet nose, “I knew you would not be long in coming to me. Joy shall be yours.”
Hwin uses the metaphor “to eat” in order to apply “to love.” This is the true goal of asceticism because it assists us in being able to love. If there is a boundary to our love it must be overcome in order that we may love freely. The character Aslan in the Narnia series is representative of Jesus Christ. Thus Hwin is able to say that everything has been stripped away and he loves Christ totally.
This must become the same goal for each of us. We should all be able to say that we love Christ totally. Going back to Saint Paul in his First Epistle to the Corinthians we are given a list of actions which lead us away from this love and towards a life of dissipation: “Do you not know that the unrighteousness will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, not the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revivers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God.”
The man in our Gospel realized this, he came to strip away all that held him back from his father, and returned to his father’s love. Let us be truthful with ourself and ask how we have entered into a life of dissipation which must be stripped away if we are to ever encounter the love of the Father. Asceticism is the key for us because through practices such as prayer, fasting, and almsgiving we tame that which is disordered and come to reorient our sight towards the Father. Let us return to the Father, who in His mercy, runs out to embrace us.