Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Personal updates

A few short personal updates:

I admitted at a recent chapter meeting, when our Chaplain read the Prodigal Son parable, that I don't like it. In fact, I think "hate" was the verb I used. Which is the opposite, I would suspect, of most people's reaction -- it's easily among the most-popular and -cited of Our Lord's parables. But my honest reaction is that the parable is incomprehensible. Mystifying. Which I realize is to some extent the point, but that doesn't make it easier to swallow. Or to "get." When asked, "what would you have done in the prodigal son's situation?" my honest answer is "probably left home the next day, wondering wtf THAT was all about." I've noted before that stuff like this I just don't *get.* The person in the Prodigal Son parable with whom I identify the most, at least in terms of psychological makeup, is the other son. Don't get me wrong -- I'm not jealous of my brother exactly. And I certainly wouldn't claim to never have strayed. But I would very much have had the brother's reaction, even as the prodigal son himself.

After having been snubbed in the listing of manly Catholic blogs (why ... was it just because I have [censored]?) I decided I need to butch up, with sports fandom. I decided to enter my work's NCAA basketball pool and immersed myself in the tournament. I submitted two brackets -- one which I tried to pick (and when I fell into conversation with people that was "my bracket), and one where I just blindly went with the higher-seeded team. In an 80-bracket office, one finished 9th (out of the money though), the other 76th. Guess which was which. I spent the whole Friday of Day 2 of the 1st Round at one sports bar watching games. Fridays during a Lent when you've given up alcohol can make bars one of the oddest places in the world. Over the course of nine hours, I ordered all three things on the menu I could have and really felt guilty putting the poor bartender through all my 108 soda refills without bumping my bill up.

The darkness and depression got to me a couple of times and I crashed hard after a week of daily-Mass attendance which is a common pattern, like Icharus (maybe partly because I hate the Prodigal Son parable).


rleehistory said...

The Progigal Son parable IS incomprehensible, because the bastard never repents. He is the same self-interested SOB at the end as he was at the beginning. And the father never ASKS him if he repented. If you think about it, it really is a thoroughly Lutheran parable: salvation by grace apart from works. I don't see any other way to read it. Most of the Catholic commentaries I have read are dishonest, because they read into it a repentance that simply is not there. And I don't see ANY difference between the standard of morality defended by the older son and the one that the vast majority of conservative Catholics take for granted. Being the thoroughly screwed up, weak willed person that I am, I have to confess that I find it extremely consoling, because I can't explain it in terms of traditional Catholic moral teaching.

Nicole Genevieve said...

CourageMan: First, I'm so glad you're back!

Second, re: The Prodigal Son. I totally think it's ok to identify with the elder son. I do too. Lots of people do, I think, for whom living a holy life is a real struggle. I think we're supposed to identify with him, otherwise, why put him in the parable? I always thought he was there to remind "pious" people, for whom holiness is a bit of a grim struggle, not to grow bitter at the generosity with which God flings His love around, even to the (seemingly) undeserving. When I teeter over into the slightly bitter, I always try to remember the Father's line to the elder son, "all that I have is yours."

Dad29 said...

What do you mean, RLEE--that the prod. 'never repents'?

I recall that he said 'I shoulda never left,' or words to that effect (I'm not going to look it up.)

You wanted a Mirandized/notarized full confession verbatim?

The ProdSon tale is analogous to the "Good Thief" tale--last-minute generous, all-forgiving love. And as a bonus, we are given an understanding of "temporal punishment"--for in both stories, the forgiveness followed privations here on Earth.

In the good thief story, those privations earned a pass on Purgatory.

Another topic, Courage--'manly' man stuff: join the Pink Pistols. If you're not admitted to the 'manly' group, you can always make the admitting authority dance a bit!

Happy Easter!!!

Dale said...

Gosh--I didn't do the pools at all this year. In fact, I haven't done them since my last year of law school.

Not that there's anything wrong with that...

Dale said...

Oh, and I agree with Dad-to-Nine: The contrition is there, if as the very definition of "imperfect" contrition. His sin has reduced him to this state, and he recognizes that. FWIW, for me, it echoes some of the penitential psalms that way, where the Psalmist focuses on the effects of his sin more than his sorrow over it.

CourageMan said...

No college-bk pools???

What a pansy-ass feminized wussy you are. (I can't say that other word ... rehab, etc.). I'll bet you don't even scratch yourself watching TV.

St. Al Bundy ... pray for us.

Dad29 said...

...somehow I never thought Al Bundy was quite the image...

rleehistory said...

I was to curious to see what the reactions to my original post were like and they were exactly what I would have expected. Catholics refuse to get the parable of the Prodigal Son. It is as if their whole sense of what religion is about is at stake. There is NO contrition, imperfect or otherwise, in the parable. The Prodigal Son returns home because he is HUNGRY. If he were not out of money, he would still be whoring around and living it up. And the Father doesn't care. He imposes no penance of any kind. In other words, God would make a lousy spiritual director.

The Sheepcat said...

Rleehistory, I'm baffled.

"Father, I have sinned before heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands." That sure sounds to me like contrition. For one thing, he is willing to accept a penance, even though the father does not in fact impose it on him.

To get this not to be contrition, one has to imagine his speech to be an act of calculated insincerity, and there's no evidence for that--the father certainly doesn't think so. Far more plausibly, the speech is something the son rehearses because he's afraid of being rejected if he goes home.

I was very moved by Nouwen's commentary when I read it some seven-odd years ago (long before I became Catholic). What other notable Catholic commentaries are there?

rleehistory said...

It only sounds like contrition if you have never been hungry, and what do we know about this young man that makes the accusation of calculated insincerity implausible? If he had come home when he still had some money in his pocket, you might be able to make a case, but the timing of his "contrition" makes the point of the parable obvious to everyone but a traditional Catholic.

Saul said...

CourageMan, as Nicole said, it is not an common interpretation to identify with the older brother.

Jesus is the prodigal son, having absorbed our sins, but then rises ('he was dead but now is alive') and invites us, the elder son, to join him. The elder son's decision is never given, indicating that the choice is ours. Details in (Journey Back to Eden, Mark Gruber)

Franklin Jennings said...

I have to disagree with rlee.

Its not trad catholics that don't get it, I don't think. It's people who've never fudged up their whole lives so badly that they are literally filthy and starving.

Contrition does not always begin in recognizing the ways you've wronged another, but in the ways you've wronged yourself. "Hey, I'm starving to death here because of my own evil" is the epitomy of imperfect contrition, and the Church has always taught that imperfect contrition is sufficient for forgiveness.

But you have, i think, opened my eyes to one big reason the Church has always taught this; She got it from the parable.

Rick said...

Can a non-Catholic follower of Jesus get in on the discussion? I grew up knowing (intellectually, if I even thought about it) that my dad loved me. Yet, as I grew into adulthood, I really felt the absence of an explicit "father love." I have come to terms with it and truly appreciate what and who dad was. He truly did as well as he could have as a man/father of the times in which he lived. When we lived in Germany, we went through incredibly deep waters with my second son and, as a result, I struggled with feelings of failure as a father myself. Yet, during that time God did some special things. I began to ponder the depth of the love and compassion I felt for my son (as well as the others). I realized how deeply I loved them, wanted the best for them, wanted to give myself to them and for them--as a father. Then I pondered two biblical passages.

(1) Matt 7:9ff -- "Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone.... If you, then, being evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask him.
(2) Ephesians 3:14,15 -- For this reason I bow my knees before the Father from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name....

The bottom line for me in each of these passages (relative to the issues I was struggling with) was that the love and compassion I felt for my kids was a reflection of God the Father's heart for me. It was a logical "argument" using the principle of moving from the lesser to the greater. If I felt such love for my son, how much greater was God the Father's love for me. Mine the lesser, his the greater. I began at that time to begin to meditate on (and seek to be satisfied in) the Father's love for me. My "father" role flows from the reality of the Fatherhood of God.

Thus, in the parable of the Lost Son, we learn a great deal about the love of his father twoard him, things which help us understand God's love for us as Father. In the parable we see that
1. the Father's love was abused by his son (who saw his father as worth more dead than alive, i.e., give me my inheritance even though you have not yet died) but that the father did not reject the son, did not seek to coerce the son.
2. the Father's love "suffers long," he waited in hope while his son was gone. The fact that he saw and recognized his son frmo far off suggests he was always watching the horizon.
3. the father's love was unconditional, not dependent on anything from the son in terms of worth or earning it; he simply loved him
4. the Father's love was extravagant; not heeding the son's apology, the father heaped on the son riches flowing from himself (check out Zephaniah 3:17 where God rejoices over his people)
5. the Father's love was, in a final word, scandalous. In Middle Eastern culture, a father does not run out to his son. The son comes to the Father in a sedate and appropriate manner. Yet, in this story the Father, filled with joy and love, sets aside cultural norms and appropriateness to express his love for his son. This was scandalous. Also, it goes against our human tendency to feel and think that love must be earned (vis-a-vis the older brother). The scandalousness of the Father's love (also seen as grace) comes out in Romans 6:1ff. IN Paul's argument about sin and grace, the charge is laid against God.... If the presence of sin increases the experience of Grace (if God loves people who do not deserve it) why not just sin more so that grace will be more. Paul's point is that those who truly experience grace (when deserving of judgment) are utterly transformed. They will be changed by their true experience of God's undeserved favor (grace) and his unconditional love.

So, the approach to Father's day frmo the parable is to point out that the characteristic of the father's love toward his son is to be seen, in representative form, in our love for our children. So, the point is not so much to "honor" Father's as it is to challenge them to see what Fatherhood means from God's perspective.

Also, I want people to experience the depth of God the Father's uncoditional, extravagant, weven scandalous love for them.

Whew, didn''t mean to write so much but there you have it. In Germany I learned, once and for all, that I have a Father and that He loves me.