Yesterday when I arrived at our office, Demi Pentiss excitedly asked me if I was aware of a second book on the parable of “the man who had two sons” by Henri Nouwen. I replied I was not aware of the book, so she gave me her copy to peruse. Entitled Home Tonight, Further Reflections on the Parable of the Prodigal Son, published by Doubleday, it is a series of meditations taken from talks at a conference/retreat for a group of caregivers from L’Arche communities. On almost every page is a quotation from Scripture, a writer of note, or from one of Father Nouwen’s books.
In the introduction written by Sue Mosteller, who gathered the notes from the workshop which Nouwen led and published them following the priest’s death, I discovered this quotation from Parker J. Palmer: “The marvelous thing about learning from a story is that the story never ends, so our learning from it need not end either.” (From The Active Life, Harper and Row, 1990) This is precisely why I believe this parable is so wonderful for us in the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth: we are able to see both our personal lives and the experience of the diocese over the past few years unfold and become illuminated in new and deepened ways of understanding.
Yesterday when I invited you to read yourself into the parable, to take on one of the characters with which you identify, I really asked you to move into the story and discover your own life’s story therein. In the days ahead, we are going to explore each of the characters and see how we might identify ourselves with all them as well. That might, perhaps, be a real challenge, for who wants to be as grumpy as the older brother, and some might not be able to identify the internal adolescent younger brother. Other characters also can prove difficult for some of us. But please bear with me.
Finally, if you have not re-read the parable today, I want to encourage you to do so. See if there is some detail that you might have missed yesterday that leaps out this day. I never cease to be astonished at how frequently someone has re-written my Bible to include a word or a phrase that was never there before in all of the multitude of times I read a particular passage. In truth, for whatever reason, I was not ready to hear and receive an insight that just today becomes available to me. So read again, and slowly. Digest the words one by one. We all had the same mother, and she told us to eat slowly, chewing our food thoroughly, not gulping down our meals, lest we miss some of the delights of taste, texture, and aroma.
As they say in Italia, “Mange.”