Sunday 22 March 2020

Fourth Sunday of Lent – Year  A
Word for today
The Gospel of Luke 15:1-3.11-32


The house is beautiful and large. Close to it there are lanes leading to the accommodations of its many employees and hired workers who, even if they are servants, are treated like family members, so well that the youngest of the children at some point in his life wishes he were treated like them, because they are rich of all goods. Further along there are the stables for the horses and then stalls, fences with all kinds of animals, barns and warehouses. Beyond the fences, fields for all kinds of crops stretch into the distance as far as the eye can see, and then trees and verdant land carved by ditches and abundant brooks.
The Father is a rich and generous man, the two sons are wealthy and free men. One day the younger, for many reasons, rebels against his father, against that life and that home. The rebellion changes his desires, the young man begins to desire a different kind of wealth, of well-being, satisfactions related to the senses, ephemeral and temporary riches. He asks to have his share of the assets, and the Father, without offering a word, divides his property between the sons. Indeed the text points out that the father shares not only the assets, but life itself.
It is a rich family, in which wealth and prosperity run naturally and easily. From food to clothing, everything is proportionate to this wealth and prosperity and it reveals hardworking, intelligent and peaceful fortune.
The son's desire is realized and he goes to a distant country where he lives according to his desires that soon lead him to make an unsalvable life, as he loses all freedom, wealth and well-being. The young son is in revolt against the Father, so he does not desire a life of true wealth and prosperity, peace and beauty, and his desires are poor, scared, pitiful, ephemeral, selfish. Desires lead our lives, they show the way, guide our steps, open and close doors and roads.
Among all the countries where he could have gone, his way of thinking led him to a region where there would be a terrible famine. Now his desires are sticking him to misery, loneliness, slavery, squalor, indigence. Desires lead life, and the young man is forced to stick himself to the service of one of the local citizens who sends him to tend pigs in the mud, without even being able to eat their pods. The fence, the swine, the mud, hunger and thirst, cold, fear, loneliness were not planned and created by an evil god or improvident fate, by astrology or evil curse, but they are consistent  and coherent with a certain way of thinking and desiring. Definitively desires create the direction of life.
The thoughts of defiance, deep ingratitude and ephemeral welfare of the young man have been turned into mud, misery, swain to tend, waste of wealth, misery and poverty. What has happened is simply and perfectly consistent with the energy moved and desired from the deep of his heart. Now that the deep desires of his heart and mind have become true in his daily life, the young man is in deep trouble, he is alone, hungry, disappointed and with nothing in his hands. In this situation of deep need of everything, the young man has a change of heart. He gives life to a new desire, his mind and his heart in an instant open up to different desires, differently oriented. 
He makes up his mind, he goes back to the origin of his deep desires, to his logos, the source of his inner dialogue where everything and every energy of man takes direction and shape. His desire has changed and immediately he gets up. After having crawled, the young man now stands up on his feet, and his feet follow the direction taken by his desires that are addressed to the Father's house.
While the younger son is still a long way off his home,  another desire runs towards him. A desire never bent, an unwavering desire, a desire full of power and emotion, a desire which makes sight sharp, legs and feet fast, a desire opens up into a smile of infinite embrace. The desire of the younger son is embraced, literally overwhelmed by the desire of the Father. The desires of the younger son have changed and now they are completely encompassed by any blessing which, like  a wave of light,  materializes in fine robes, ring, sandals, banquet and peace.
At the same time, the older son with his attitude clearly reveals the orientation of his heart and his old and unchanged thoughts. He has no desire for true happiness and wealth for life, for his brother, and even for his Father. No loving desire has ever made his sight  sharp, his arms tender for the embrace. No desire for true well-being for that home or for himself, nor for the Father. His thoughts were driven by challenge, greed, profound ingratitude, although everything was well protected by good manners and formally correct actions. In the older son there are no thoughts of gratitude, not even the simplest respect for the Father's feelings  and his desire to celebrate. The older son feeds heavy thoughts of dissatisfaction for the Father, and for this reason he  is totally oriented towards expressions of painful stinginess, expressing with unprecedented harshness a pathetic and useless manifestation of respectability. His heart is oriented to violence and hardness while maintaining a formally correct behavior.
The Father tries gently to explain the situation, but he perfectly knows that there is nothing more useless than trying to convince someone about the beauty of love and life by reasoning with him. The Father knows that his unsalvable son is absolutely more salvable than the other son who has always considered himself  safe. The unsalvable son has learned a lesson, the lesson of life, the lesson that leads to life. Now he knows that if the desires of the heart are good then and only then one can do good and be happy and in peace. 
The older brother is not guilty of unsalvable things, he did not squander the inheritance, he did not lead a dissolute life, he did not  cover himself with mud, but he let his heart harden in a inner revolt, breathing slavery and discomfort, resentment and disapproval. A hardened heart can do correct and formally right things, but only a good and peaceful heart can actually do good and take part to the banquet of life.