Fourth Sunday of Lent – Fr. Bill McNeeley
March 31, 2019 – 11:00am
Parents spend a lot of time protecting their children from hurting themselves. They have to learn certain lessons but we want to limit the consequences until they are old enough to understand and to learn from their mistakes. Some 30 years ago I was having coffee with a friend in my living room when my son who was a toddler at the time, came barreling out of his bedroom and headed straight for the coffee table which held a fresh, piping hot cup of coffee. Fortunately I was able to grasp it and hold it out of his reach but he still clamored and tried to climb up my arm. I said, “Wait, wait, wait, wait! Do you want to touch this?” He said, “Yes.” So I said “OK, put your hand right here.” When he did he pulled his hand back and I said, “Hot!” That was how he learned the word hot. If only all of life’s lessons could be learned that easily. That’s what all parents by giving their children freedom to learn and explore and minimize the harm and the risk their children face. Eventually we have to let how children learn their own lessons in life. We can’t protect them forever. A number of years ago my oldest brother and I pulled into the driveway where our sons and their other cousins were playing on skateboards. Trent, who is a physician declared “No skateboarding! We’re going to have a broken arm by the end of the day.” Sure enough an hour later his son ran to the house crying and cradling his own, not because he was skateboarding. He just fell out of a tree.
In today’s Gospel Jesus tells a story about a young man whose father decided he couldn’t protect his son forever. Sooner or later he was going to have to learn and the problem was that according to the law at that time and in their culture younger son was well within his rights to ask for his inheritance upfront. Had he been more practical and savvy financially he might’ve found some prime real estate at a bargain price just waiting to be developed. Had those options been before him and had chosen wisely He might’ve built up great wealth and been able to care for his father even more generously. That would’ve been the best case scenario, but as it was, he blew the money on dissolute living or maybe invested in some harebrained scheme but however it happened he squandered it all. It’s kind of like he said to his father, “Dad I can’t wait for you to die. I want my inheritance now.” A wise father always knows his son and I’ll bet he knows that this would probably not have a good outcome, but eventually you have to let your children learn for themselves.
The season of Lent is like a healing balm that helps us heal from those hard life lessons we have inflicted on ourselves. It is indeed when we come home to our Heavenly Father and when we receive the healing balm of forgiveness and reconciliation.