a speyrian interpretation of the prodigal son as the prodigal Word
The gospel reading on the Fourth Sunday of Lent is the story of the prodigal son (Lk 15:1-3,11-32). My friend, Deacon Paul Anel, who is the Art Director of Heart’s Home USA in Brooklyn chose to use a Speyrian interpretation of the passage for his sermon last Sunday. Here we see von Speyr’s principle at work—everything in Scripture must be brought into the trinitarian relations.
“‘A man had two sons…’ We heard that story so many times that we know it by heart. Yet each time we hear it again, we cannot help identifying with this man. I am the prodigal son, the son who strayed away from his Father’s love and home. I wasted my time and life for things that could not make me happy. This parable is the story of my life, my journey, it is the story of my sins and conversions.
Conversion, we believe, is our responsibility. That’s what Lent and penance is about, isn’t it? Sin is something that pertains to us, whereas everything good in us pertains to God: patience, tenderness, courage and, above all, charity. He has taken everything from us. Everything but sin. Sin still belongs to us. It is our thing, our responsibility. Sin is what God cannot take away from us. It belongs to us, and therefore, conversion too. It is our work, our lifelong effort. Maybe our pride.
“‘A man had two sons…’ I would like to suggest that we read that Parable differently. ‘A man had two sons…’ God the Father lived in perfect communion with the Word and the Holy Spirit. Everything that belonged to him belonged to them: his divinity, his perfect knowledge, his love. One day though, the Word decided to set off to a country far away. Taking his heritage, that is, his divine nature, he left his Father’s home and came down into the world. The Word was made flesh and he dwelt among us. There he was, walking among us. Wasting his divine heritage during thirty years in the silence of Nazareth. Then sitting in the house of the sinners, eating with tax collectors and prostitutes. Giving away everything he possessed: his time, his words, his strength. Giving away everything, up to his flesh and blood. Up to his garments. Until he found himself starving on the cross, starving for love, for forgiveness. Far from his Father, no longer deserving to be called his Son, abandoned by him and by us.
“Sin does not belong to us. Not anymore. If there is one thing that Jesus took away from us, it is sin, precisely. Not that he committed sin. It did much more than that: ‘He was made sin’, says St. Paul in his letter to the Corinthians. He was made sin. That is, he experienced the agony, the exile, the consequences of sin to an extent never quite experienced by any human being. He endured the agony of sin and the loneliness of hell in a way we cannot even imagine.
“Lent is not about our conversion, not primarily. It is about Christ’s conversion. It is about Christ confessing on the Cross the sin of the world, our sin, my sin. It is about the Father embracing Jesus-Christ on Easter morning, absolving him from the burden of Sin. Covering him with the mantle of victory. Putting at his finger the nuptial ring… For Jesus did not come back alone to his Father’s home. He married our humanity, saving us from our prostitutions to lifeless idols. Making us the Church, his pure and sinless bride.
“During the next three weeks before Easter, let us ask the Father - not for our conversion - but that we may keep our eyes fixed on Jesus Christ with faith and gratitude. That each confession may be a participation in his own Great Confession on the Cross. That each confession may fill us with the certitude of the Absolution, that was given once and for all on Easter morning. That each Eucharist may give us the joy to celebrate with him, in his Father’s house, the gift of Salvation.”
—Thank you for this, Deacon Anel.