“My son, you are here with me always. Everything I have is yours.” —Luke 15:31|
HIS WAS WHAT the father of the estate said to his older son in the parable of the Prodigal Son, heard most recently this past weekend, the fourth Sunday of Lent. I’ve been thinking a lot about this parable lately, and in particular, why neither of the sons really understood what riches he had in his father’s house. Is that why the prodigal son left? Did he not realize what he had, and did he think things would be so much better elsewhere?
The father has inherited and maintained an existence that is well-ordered, successful, and respected, even coveted. The father is the caretaker of these riches, and the Prodigal Son is part of this inheritance. The rich blessings, fertile land, and beautiful adornments are his by right.
And yet, the Prodigal Son rejects all of it.
Imagine for a moment that the father and his house represent the Church. The sacraments are her wealth, and she is adorned with the richness of beautiful art, architecture, and music. The well-ordered success of the estate is akin to the Church’s time honored liturgical practices, steeped in history and tradition.
The father, clearly heartbroken by the son’s rejection, does not drastically change his house nor anything about it in an effort to lure back his son. He doesn’t rid himself of his possessions nor throw away all of his successful practices in order to join his son in the wasteful abandonment of all he knows. Rather, he remains steadfast, hoping that the son will realize what he has given up, and return to the life-giving love of the father and his house.
And yet it seems that many in the Church have not learned or understood this lesson. How many prodigal sons and daughters are still out there? Did the Church’s willingness to try to lure back her people really work? Did the abandonment of sacred tradition, of Gregorian chant, polyphony, and excellent hymnody, and of beautiful vestments and architecture, bring more people back home?
Those whose calling it is to work for the Church, those who understand what wealth really is, those who recognize the importance of beauty in the Father’s house, have a difficult task. Often they face ridicule, rejection, and heartbreak. Not an easy life. But the Gospel tells us that the prodigal children will one day return. To all of my colleagues—remain steadfast!
You are invited to experience something beautiful in Dallas,Texas this May. Please consider attending our conference on beauty and sainthood, and experience the world premiere of “A Rose in Winter” by composer Frank La Rocca. The registration fee is at an UNBELIEVABLY low price!