• Joshua 5:9a, 10-12 • 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 • Luke 15:1-3,11-32 • 4 Lent C ’13 •
Print PDF: Weekly Homily 03.10.2013
In the wave of renewal following the II Vatican Council, moral theology broke away from the legalistic chains that had rendered it so sterile. Two significant German theologians advocated the concept of “the fundamental option” as the foundation of authentic Catholic moral theology.
The parable in our gospel text is very familiar to all of us, even though it is contained only in the gospel of Luke. I think the parable illustrates the concept of “the fundamental option.” So because you are so familiar with this parable, I suggest we seek to find some new meaning in it. I think we can do so by considering the parable from the perspective of the “fundamental option.”
“Fundamental option” refers to or means the deepest orientation of my heart and soul, of my entire being. Every human person makes a free and basic choice giving direction to his/her life. This deep, free choice directs one either toward truth, love, life and God, or toward evil. That is the “fundamental option.” It is the moral foundation of our thoughts, words and actions. All subsequent moral choices arise from the foundation.
In the parable the younger son demands his inheritance from a still-living father. He squanders the money becoming homeless and starving but “he came to his senses” and decides to return home. The older son spent his life doing what his father wanted, but never learned to love as his father did. When “he heard music and dancing” he was baffled, “angry and unwilling to come in.”
It is probable that the decisions made by each son spring from the “fundamental option,” the basic orientation or direction of life each had established in their early youth. The younger son’s ego led him to be rash and foolish, but his love for and trust in his father was greater than his mistakes. The older son’s ego-problem was his downfall. He never left the farm, but was so absorbed in self, he never learned to love as his father did.
Jesus was a rule breaker and iconoclast. Jewish men understood that associating with the sick or unclean rendered them ritually unclean and unfit to participate in communal rituals. Jesus was aware of these social norms. Even so he intentionally went to the homes of people others shunned. He ate with them, talked with them, touched them, and welcomed them to be with him.
His behavior was shocking and offensive to his peers. The scribes and Pharisees were angry because he broke the rules. It was to them that he addressed this parable in defense of his own attitudes and behavior. He wanted them to see and understand their potential to love.
The fundamental message of this parable is to tell us what God is like! It is a portrait of infinite compassion, complete and unconditional love, patient waiting, forgiving and welcoming. The father’s unconditional love is incredible! We are able to emulate that love.
I have tried to apply the notion of “fundamental option” to this parable. By doing so I hope to help us apply this parable to the particular circumstances in which we are living.
It seems that many of our young Catholic adults, like the younger son, have taken their inheritance and walked away from our community of faith. It is difficult to let them go. I think their absence is symptomatic of a deeper crisis in the emerging global society. Like the elder son, this new global society seems absorbed in self.
We could argue with our young adults and those shaping this global society, chastise them, or frame this crisis in negative terms. But that would be a mistake. Our only option is to make the great love of God real by loving people, keeping our arms open and making the gospel alive once again.
Lent provides opportunity to ponder my own “fundamental option” that brought me to this Table of Eucharist. Reaffirm your personal choice to imitate “Christ” and to become fully human as he is.