Homilies by Rev. Andrew Collis unless indicated otherwise.
‘Our own homecoming’
There’s a Spirit to the Gospel – a force at work in the text – to provoke and to comfort. God be with you …
In this Spirit, the 17th-
He then knew the pain of losing his beloved wife Saskia, and his son Rumbartus. He knew unhappy affairs with his housekeepers. Financial problems became so severe that in 1656 Rembrandt was declared insolvent. His son Titus also died.
Rembrandt was close to death when he painted “The Return of the Prodigal Son”, seen by many as the last will and testament of a turbulent and troubled life.
The prodigal son – in many ways a self-
The Spirit is at work in the parable to draw Nouwen and Rembrandt to the love of God who is both a father and a mother. And the love of God is a love that exceeds the conventional patriarchy of first-
It’s there in the text – a father acting in a non-
No references here to sin or law. Simply to life, to reconciliation!
The Spirit at work here is the same Spirit at work in the Hebrew Scriptures, lest we think the Gospel contradicts the Older Testament. This is the Spirit of the psalmist inspired to sing of a “mercy [that] encircles us”.
But let’s stay with the Gospel. We can say that the Spirit reveals a Compassion that desires freedom; a patient Forgiveness (a giving first). The Spirit animates the Love of this father, reaching out to his lost sons. To both of his sons – each differently lost – each regarding the father as a banker, a source of money, rather than a person who wants a relationship with them.
And the Spirit won’t allow the younger son to remain in despair or shame (a Jew feeding the pigs; a wholly humiliated person), but stirs in him a repentance that entails honesty with respect to his real needs (he “came to his senses”, literally “came to himself”) and the strong desire to be with his family again.
The Spirit won’t allow the elder son’s self-
There’s a Spirit at work in the church; in us. And this Spirit raises questions for us – in and through the Gospel text.
What kind of questions are raised for you? With whom do you most closely identify?
Will the elder son decide to join the celebration for his lost-
Will the father go on pleading with the elder son? Will you go on pleading – hoping – with the very religious, the moralistic, the ones genuinely shocked at a love that welcomes sinners and eats with them?
The Spirit raises questions at the edges of the text, too – prompting us to notice what has gone unnoticed.
Where is the mother of the family? Is it enough that the father bears a motherly tenderness? Or is this a parable for men only – for men as property owners, heads of families/households – commanding wealth, overseeing business ventures, overseeing moral and religious learning? Where is the mother? Are there sisters? What roles do they play? What roles might they yet play? In the family? In the church? In society?
And what of the hired hands and the servants/slaves? Can the story of divine compassion be told without raising questions as to their rights and desires? Must they, as opposed to the sheep and the coin and the sons, remain lost – minor characters, non-
Candidates may include non-
Whom do we cast in such roles – silenced, hidden, non-
In a register subtly Franciscan – consider the “fatted calf” – one commentator says: “If we are God’s children, then all others are sisters and brothers” (Chris Budden).
In silence, let us receive what the Spirit brings … Amen.