A question for Lent: Why are we faithful?

| Deacon Paul Strommer | February 29, 2016 | 0 Comments

We know it as the “parable of the Prodigal Son,” the story that possesses a remarkable quality: the ability to consistently produce new questions within us. What question will arise in us this Sunday?

First we’ll meet the “prodigal son.” His is the story of abandoning home for “a distant country.” He’ll come to his father and say, “Father, give me the share of your estate.”

Then we’ll meet the father. His is the story of unconditional love. The son’s words mean that he’d prefer his father dead. Despite the dishonor heaped upon him, the father will freely entrust everything he has to his sons, desiring only their good.

Eventually, we’ll come to meet the older son. His is the story of remaining home. Prior to this meeting, we’ll observe the dramatic downfall of the younger son. In vivid detail we’ll learn how he “squander[s] his inheritance on a life of dissipation.” But, the entire time, it’ll be the older son who’ll remain at home and will “not once disobey.”

The figure of the older son often produces great questions. “Nearing the house, and coming upon the sound of music and dancing,” we’ll watch him. He’ll discover that his younger brother, “who swallowed up [his father’s] property,” is given “the fattened calf . . . [to] celebrate with a feast.” How will he react?

The older brother, becoming angry, will stubbornly refuse to enter the house. Now, suddenly, we’ll see who he truly is.

Just as the father had run out to meet the younger son, he’ll go out to meet the older son, who refuses to come inside. The older son will complain: “Look, all these years I served you and not once did I disobey your orders.” Beneath all those years of obedience we’ll learn of the great interior distance between the older son and his father. It’ll appear that the older son obeyed for his personal gain, not out of love.

Often, and especially during the Lenten season, those of us who remain faithful in the Church should ask ourselves: What is beneath our practice of the faith? Are we engaged so as to remain and grow in our relationship with God? Or, are we faithful only because we know that in the end God will owe us something in return?

We’ll hear the father remind his older son: “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.” All of those years the older son had remained at his father’s side. Yet, when his younger brother returns to that fattened calf, the older son shows the tremendous distance he is living from home.

It’s possible to remain at home but to live only like servants of God. But we have to remember that God is our father.

This Sunday, ask: How can I live all the Church asks of me, not only as a servant of rules, but also as a beloved child of the God of mercy?

Deacon Strommer is in formation for the priesthood at the St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity for the Diocese of Duluth. His teaching parish is St. Ambrose in Woodbury. His home parish is the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary in Duluth.

Sunday, March 6
Fourth Sunday of Lent


  • Joshua 5:9a, 10-12
  • 2 Corinthians 5:17-21
  • Luke 15:1-3, 11-32

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Category: Sunday Scriptures