31st March 2019 Fourth Sunday of Lent

The prodigal way

I’m thinking of a couple I met once who were very upset. The upshot was that their adult children had told them that they basically wanted their inheritance now, as they felt there was no point in receiving it later.  They had been more than generous to this point- but this was something they never saw coming.

For me, it was a perfect image of the younger son in the Gospel- basically telling his father he was as good as dead to him- so he might as well get the inheritance now. It’s not a nice emotion to feel as a parent. Even when it comes to debate on issues from politics to parenting, I’ve heard older generation relate that their adult “child” can simply treat them as “dead” if their opinion doesn’t match their own.

I have often thought that developing a sense of entitlement is a very dangerous thing. The young man in the Gospel had it, and his older brother had -if not a sense of entitlement- a sense of expectation.  You could argue that entitlement and expectation to a lesser degree lie at the root of so many things, one nation lording it over another, the male sense of entitlement to women and violence against them. The whole vicious cycle of subjugating another.

We know what happened in the Gospel- he got his wish- the inheritance was given and duly squandered. In the February gathering in Rome just gone by, the leaders of Bishops Conferences around the world were asked by Archbishop Philip Naameh (Ghana) to reflect on how in Church we also demanded our inheritance, and squandered the trust placed by people by keeping quiet, looking the other way, avoiding conflict. We all know the disastrous consequences in people hurt in the deepest way possible.

We can be an agent for change rather than a tale carrier like the unnamed servant who tells the older brother what has transpired. That servant probably thought “Well I have done nothing wrong”  But whatever about minding our own business, and not our brother or sisters’ – we are our brothers’ keeper. The way back is by puncturing the sense of entitlement, expectation and not demanding privilege, recognising ourselves as we are, being open and ready to accept the consequences. Mercy is the Lord’s work- we can only prepare the way for it!

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