11 And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. 13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living.14 And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.
17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father,I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ 20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him andkissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’22 But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.
25 “Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ 28 But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, 29 but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ 31 And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’”
This Sunday, we speak of reconciliation, prodigals, older brothers, a father’s love, and the best being slaughtered. For many of us we view ourselves as the prodigal son, and ‘those others’ as the older brother. For some of us, who are self aware, we are the older brother, jealous of the attention and love shown to the son who told his father he was dead in his eyes. What we should find, though, is that we are both– we are both the prodigal returning home and the older brother who worked hard and is jealous of the lasciviousness of love shown to our no-good dirty brother.
As Pope Francis said, “The thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds…And you have to start from the ground up.”
How do we heal the wounds? First, we have to bring them in and offer them grace, grace, and more grace. We should not expect those that are hurting to follow our rules immediately, without building a relationship with them. Just like toddlers who are learning to walk will fall down a lot, we have to be patient, offer a hand, and ‘kiss the boo boos’ for those entering our doors hurt by the Church.
Second, we have a tremendous gift of Grace from God in the Sacraments. Baptism and confession are healing points of Grace to the most weary of sinners (and in regards to confession, saints). Then we offer them daily meals of bread and wine found in Christ’s Body and Blood and teach them the prayers and rhythms of the people of God found in our Daily Office. We offer them branches of reconciliation through radical hospitality and opens tables of food & wine. We invite them into our lives as the people of God and hear Jesus say to them (and to us): “Come to me you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
I know I need this, I know that you need this, and I know that the world needs this– Church, quit trying to appeal to the Ceasars and Emperors of this world and reach out your front door to the needy, broken, hurting, and wounded within your communities.