Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary - Homilies


24th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Fr. Jonathan L. Reardon
September 15th, 2013
Year C

When I was kid, I remember thinking – and sometimes voicing – my own opinion/frustration over the rules of the house. I often heard my father say: “as long as you live under my roof, you will live by my rules.” Once I decided to leave. I think I was 8 or 9 years old. I went next door for pizza and was walked home later that evening. The point is that I sometimes felt that I knew better than my parents. I didn’t like the rules. I can also remember the day when I realized that my parents weren’t crazy after all. The rules that I so disliked as a child actually began to make sense. I realized that they were teaching my responsibility, virtue, hard work, honesty, the value of life and how to become a man of integrity.

Perhaps this is what is happening in the Gospel today. At first, this younger son thinks he knows better than his father. It was like he was saying: “I don’t need you, I can survive on my own.” He turns his back on his father, cutting himself off from him. He wants his freedom. When he gets it, however, he goes overboard to the point of losing it all – including his freedom. The meaning of parable seems clear. The younger son is a symbol of one who cuts himself off from God through sin. His life from then on shows us the effects of sin in our lives. His outward life was reflective of his inner disposition.

This happens to us in our lives. This happens in families. How many of us have thought the same things that I did when I was kid? How many of us sometimes still think we know better than Mom and Dad and try to go our own way? How many of us sometimes think we know better than the Church? We will say, “well I don’t like this teaching, so I’m going my own way.” What happens is that we let our pride get in the way of understanding the wisdom behind what is being taught to us. That is precisely what happened to me until that day it dawned on me. I was living in an apartment off campus my senior year of college. My room was always trashed, my bed left unmade, dishes piled up in the sink, etc. I was “free.” But I was living like a pig. My outward lifestyle was also a manifestation of my interior life – my life of prayer and my relationship with God – it was a total disaster. I made the choice to “clean house” and change my way of living, to be more focused on prayer and virtue because I didn’t like the effect it had on the way I lived my life.

The parable really shows us the effects of a life lived on our own. Jesus is teaching us that we cannot do it by ourselves. We cannot live completely for ourselves. When we do, we end up living like pigs. We can do a lot of damage to our souls when we live this way, even to the point of not being able to recognize when we are in trouble. What happens is that by cutting ourselves off from God, going our own way, thinking we know better, we actually lose our freedom. We become enslaved to the pleasure which we seek. This is the turning point of the parable for the younger son. He realizes the wisdom behind his father’s rules. In an act of great humility, he got up in a spirit of contrition and went to his father for forgiveness.

In the same way, we have to take on in our lives a profound spirit of humility before God. The virtue of humility instills in us a willingness to be taught by God, to understand the nature of His teachings, and to seek His forgiveness when necessary. In this way, our outward way of life reflects our inner disposition toward our relationship with God – it shows our desire for conversion of heart and a firm decision to improve our lives – particularly our moral lives and virtuous living.

Jesus’ depiction of the father in this parable should offer us hope in this regard. The father portrayed here is meant to help us comprehend the goodness and mercy of God our Father. God does not will that we “go it alone” yet He so respects our human freedom that He allows us to make our own choices. I will admit, that it is not easy to make decisions that in the end we realize is the right decision, without being able to understand the value or the wisdom behind it. In the same way it is difficult to accept the moral teaching of the Church without being able to understand its wisdom. Yet, Jesus reveals to us that the father does not meet the return of his son with reproaches but with mercy and with love. He does not enslave his son further, rather, he frees him from the way he enslaved himself. This is the wisdom behind the teachings of the Church and it is the very nature of God’s mercy. The rules are not meant to enslave but to free.

If our attitude in life is one of humility, one that seeks this mercy, our minds and our hearts will open up to a greater willingness to understand and comprehend the wisdom of God and His teachings, then, will we walk the path to true freedom – freedom of the heart, freedom that enjoys a deeply held communion with God.







Fr. Jon Reardon

Rev. Jonathan L. Reardon is a priest for the diocese of Springfield in Massachusetts.
He serves at Sacred Heart Parish in Pittsfield, MA.



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