Tending the Soul
Luke 15: 11-33
This is the story of the Prodigal Son (we reflected on this gospel last week already). There are three characters mentioned: the father, the younger son, and the elder son. A fourth hidden character is the mother of these sons. Be attentive to whose point of view you read the story from.
2 Corinthians 5: 17-18
Whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold the new things have come. And all this is from God, who has reconciled us to God’s own Self in Christ and given us the ministry of reconciliation.
Harboring resentment is like letting someone you hate live rent free in your head. (Author unknown)
There are many elder sons and elder daughters who are lost while still at home. And it is this lostness– characterized by judgment and condemnation, anger and resentment, bitterness and jealousy, that is so pernicious and so damaging to the human spirit. The younger son sinned in a way we can easily identify. The lostness of the elder son is much harder to identify. He was obedient, dutiful, law abiding, and hardworking. But when confronted by his father’s joy at the return of his brother, a dark power erupts in him and boils to the surface. Suddenly, there becomes glaringly visible a resentful, proud, unkind, selfish person. There is so much resentment among the just and the righteous...much frozen anger. The lostness of the resentful “saint” is so hard to reach precisely because it is so closely wedded to the desire to be good and virtuous...it results in becoming less free, less spontaneous, less playful and incapable of joy.(Henri Nouwen in “Return of the Prodigal Son”)
I forgive so that the desire for revenge does not corrode my
being...I can be human only in relationships. Our greatest good is communal harmony. Revenge and anger subvert this. (Desmond Tutu)
Memories heal over a period of time through the following signposts on the path to forgiveness:
Stage 1: Denial
I don’t admit I was ever hurt.
Stage 2: Anger
I blame others for hurting and destroying me.
Stage 3: Bargaining
I set up conditions to be fulfilled before I am ready to forgive.
Stage 4: Depression
I blame myself for letting hurt destroy me.
Stage 5: Acceptance
I look forward to growth from hurt.
For your Reflection
1. Pick an unforgiven person or situation in your life. Ponder where you are in the stages of forgiveness. Wherever you are invite Jesus into your heart, and tell him how you feel. Listen to his response.
2. To which character do you relate in the story of the Prodigal Son? Stand in the shoes of that person, and then speak to each of the remaining characters from your perspective. In your journal, write your reflections on this experience.
3. Who are the great lovers in your life, those who seem to live free of resentment and open to joy? Draw courage from them. Write them a note expressing your gratitude for their presence and their encouragement in your life.
4. Who are your “enemies,” those you don’t like very much, those who have hurt you. Bring them into your heart and into your prayer. Imagine yourself meeting each one of them in the presence of Jesus. What do you say? How do you feel? What would you like to/ hope to change in your response to them?
What do you want to say to God about this?
What is one thing you can do to let go of a resentment; to reach out in forgiveness to someone who has hurt you? Will you do it?
Copyright © 2018 by Kathleen McNany, OSB
Benedictine Sisters of Baltimore, MD.