Hi everyone, and welcome to Weekly Homilies with Father Mark Suslenko, Pastor of SS. Isidore and Maria Parish in Glastonbury, Connecticut. We are part of the Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford. I'm Carol Vassar, parish director of communications, and this is Episode 13 of Season 5 for the Fourth Sunday of Lent: March 27, 2022. Our Gospel reading is from Luke, Chapter 15, verses 1-3 and 11-32.
Tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to Jesus, but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So to them, Jesus addressed this parable:
“A man had two sons, and the younger son said to his father, ‘Father give me the share of your estate that should come to me.’ So the father divided the property between them. After a few days, the younger son collected all his belongings and set off to a distant country where he squandered his inheritance on a life of dissipation. When he had freely spent everything, a severe famine struck that country, and he found himself in dire need. So he hired himself out to one of the local citizens who sent him to his farm to tend the swine. And he longed to eat his fill of the pods on which the swine fed, but nobody gave him any.
Coming to his senses he thought, ‘How many of my father’s hired workers have more than enough food to eat, but here am I, dying from hunger. I shall get up and go to my father and I shall say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as you would treat one of your hired workers.”’ So he got up and went back to his father.
While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I no longer deserve to be called your son.’
But his father ordered his servants, ‘Quickly bring the finest robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Take the fattened calf and slaughter it. Then let us celebrate with a feast because this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again; he was lost, and has been found.’ Then the celebration began.
Now the older son had been out in the field and, on his way back, as he neared the house, he heard the sound of music and dancing. He called one of the servants and asked what this might mean. The servant said to him, ‘Your brother has returned and your father has slaughtered the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ He became angry, and when he refused to enter the house, his father came out and pleaded with him.
He said to his father in reply, ‘Look, all these years I served you and not once did I disobey your orders; yet you never gave me even a young goat to feast on with my friends. But when your son returns who swallowed up your property with prostitutes, for him you slaughter the fattened calf.’
He said to him, ‘My son, you are here with me always; everything I have is yours. But now we must celebrate and rejoice because your brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’”
The Gospel of the Lord
“Everybody Needs a Home” by Father Mark S. Suslenko, Pastor, SS. Isidore and Maria Parish, Glastonbury, Connecticut
Everybody needs a home. Everybody needs a home. And I speak not just at a physical place that you can call your own, carve out some room for yourself and feel safe. I'm talking about a bigger, more existential home; a truer, more lasting home. A home where we find the truth of ourselves, find our ultimate identity, get our bearings for living and acting in the world, and find our reference points for making decisions.
This is the home in which we place our inner selves.
But there's something interesting about finding a home or going home. You have to know where it is before you can go, otherwise, you get lost. As you look out at our world, there's no doubt that we're living in very trying, very complicated, very scary times. There are times that are exceptionally volatile. But it's not just the war in Ukraine that's problematic. It's all of the other heartache and suffering that's displayed every day of our lives.
As human beings, we still have not found a way for everyone to eat. We still have not found a way for everyone to feel safe. We still have not unlocked the door to the sacredness of human life and its protection from conception until natural death.
Every time we turn around, there's another act of violence, another murder being committed. Someone else's life is being taken.
Just this past week, I was made privy to a story about a group of teens who decided to carjack a 73-year-old woman's car. This is a group of young people, young people. They hijacked your car and then drove her to her death because she was dragging (behind) as they pulled off. I'll spare you the details.
What's motivating these folks? Where is all of this violence, this disregard for human life coming from? It's almost as if we're charting our own course through the construction of a new conscience where the rules by which I live are the ones that I create myself every day. Whatever seems to work or fit at the moment is what I do. There doesn't seem to be much of a sense anymore of right and wrong, good or bad. And all of this just unfolds, unfolds.
As we consider the decisions we make in our life, to whom do we look and where do we go? Do we ever truly consider what God wants of us? Do we ever consider anything other than what I want or desire?
You know, a priest by the name of father Henri Nouwen, a great spiritual writer. If you're looking for something spiritual to get your hands on and read anything that he has penned is worth delving into Father Henri Nouwen. He did a meditation on Rembrandt's portrayal of the prodigal son. It's a profound painting.
The title of his book is The Return of the Prodigal Son. And in that particular reflection, he mentions how Jesus heard some very simple but profound words. And those words were this, "You are my beloved Son." After Jesus heard those words, he went out into the desert and there he confronted voices that were trying to convince him who he really should be, or could be: what would make him happy? What would bring him to where he would have the most power and success. And those voices tempted him with success, with popularity, with power. But we know how the story goes: Jesus resisted all of that because He came equipped with the truth of who He is: the beloved son of God.
We all hear those same voices. Everybody has something to say about who we should be, who we could be, who we need to be. There are voices that we listened to that tell us, in order to experience love, you have to earn it; that in order to really have a place in this world, you have to be successful; that in order to have some kind of value, you have to be productive. And these voices tell us it's okay to do what you want when you want to do it. And these voices seduce us, they lure us, and they create illusions for us. What we don't often realize is that what God says to Jesus He also says to us, "You are my beloved son. You are my beloved daughter." that's our truth. That's our home.
You see the problem that human beings face, and we see it in our own lives too, is that we find ourselves wandering off to these distant lands because we're falling victim to these illusions, to these promises that really can't pay out as they tell us they can. And so traveling to these distant countries, we begin to lose touch with who we really are. Because as we look in the mirror every morning, what looks back at us is that identity that God gives us.
"Mary, you are my beloved daughter," God says to you.
"Kevin, you are my beloved son," God says to you.
That's where we go to find out how to live and how to act and how to form our conscience and how to make decisions and how to help one another and how to find our way through this world. And so when we have traveled to these distant lands and lost our way, how do we know that we're off the true path?
Well, there's some wonderful telltale signs of that that we can identify and see. When we start experiencing things like anger or resentment, jealousy, or envy. If we find ourselves desiring revenge, falling victim to lust, pride.
These are the kinds of things that can take us off the mark. We find ourselves becoming a bit apathetic, overly self-indulgent, which are all signs that we have journeyed away. And, you know, the problem with being lost is sometimes we don't know that we're lost, and that's scary.
Another problem that's even more frightening is being lost and not knowing how to find our way home. You know, it's almost as if we've gotten ourselves into the dense forest and as we turn around and turn around, we can't quite remember how I came and what the way out is.
And there are many in our world, maybe some are here today, who feel that way. But the Lord continues to say to us, "You are my beloved son. You are my beloved daughter. And that's where our truth lies. That's what gives us the strength, the power, and the conviction not to fall victim to the seductions, to know the difference between a truth and a lie , and to cling to the realities that are eternal, not those that can be taken away.
And so as we have an opportunity this week in our times and moments of prayer, truly listen for the voice of God within making his claim on your soul, your heart as one who is most precious to Him, as his uniquely fashioned and created and loved and beloved son and daughter.
Father Mark Suslenko is the pastor of SS. Isidore and Maria Parish in Glastonbury, Connecticut. Learn more about our parish community at www.isidoreandmaria.org. And follow us on social media: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Our music comes free of charge from Blue Dot Sessions in Fall River, Massachusetts. I’m Carol Vassar. Thanks for joining us.