On Sunday, September 11, the Upper Room Inclusive Catholic Community of the NYS Capital Region chose three readings for their liturgical celebration. The first was from a Krista Tippett Interview with Fr. Greg Boyle, SJ, the second was The Parable of the Prodigal Son, and the third, a contemporary parable called The Parable of the Feisty Daughter.
“Homecoming” by Marion Honors, CSJ http://marionchonorscsj.com, print used with permission
Dave DeBonis and Mary Theresa Streck, ARCWP, presided at liturgy and led the homily starter. Two of the three readings are printed below followed by the homily starter.
A reading from a Krista Tippett interview with Greg Boyle
Well, you know, lately I've been reading the Acts of the Apostles really carefully. And if you
start to read it and think it's kind of a quaint snapshot of the earliest Christian community, that's one thing. But what if you were to read it as a measure of the health of any community? So you see how they love one another or there is nobody in need in this community, for example. But my favorite one is, it leaped off the page to me, and it says, "And awe came upon everyone," so that the measure of our compassion lies not in our service of those on the margins, but in our willingness to see ourselves in kinship. So that means the decided movement towards awe and giant steps away from judgment.
So how can we seek really a compassion that can stand in awe at what people have to carry rather than stand in judgment at how they carry it? And I think that's sort of the key here. That's the place of health in any community, forget Christian community. In any community, that's how you know that you're healthy.
Well, if you presume that God is compassionate, loving-kindness, all we're asked to do in the world is to be in the world who God is.
So you're trying to imitate the kind of God you believe in. You want to move away from whatever is tiny-spirited and judgmental. But you want to be as spacious as you can be so that you can have room for love; love is all there is and love is all you are, you know. And you want people to recognize the truth of who they are, that they're exactly what God had in mind when God made them.
You know, people who through their kindness and tenderness and focused attempt of love, return people to themselves and, in the process, they’re returned to themselves.
These are the inspired words of Greg Boyle, Jesuit, follower of Jesus.
The Parable of the Feisty Daughter
By Mary Theresa Streck (Loosely based on Lk 15:11-32)
“There was a mother who had two daughters. The younger, feisty daughter, said to her mother, ‘Mother, please give me my share of my inheritance.’ So the Mother, a compassionate and wise woman who fiercely loved both daughters, divided their inheritance between them.
“Not long after that, the adventurous, feisty daughter got together all she had, set off for a distant city and there lived freely and without thought of her mother and her home.
After she had spent a good amount of money and was very successful, and very comfortable, she realized that money and fame left her feeling empty inside. Nothing she did or had filled that emptiness - nothing. She longed for something that would fill her soul.
“When she came to her senses, she said, ‘How I miss my dear mother and I am hungry for her love.” I will set out and go back to my mother and say to her, ‘Mother, I have lived wildly and have forgotten you. Forgive me. I long to be with you. I have been so self absorbed; I am coming home.’
“But while she was still a long way off, her wise and compassionate mother saw her and her heart leapt for joy; she ran to her daughter, tears flowing freely, threw her arms around her and kissed her tenderly.
“The daughter said to her, ‘Mother, I have missed you and your tender love. I want to come home.’
“And the mother said to her daughter, ‘Oh my sweet child, I have longed for your return.’ The mother called her family and friends together and they celebrated her daughter’s return.
Overwhelmed with gratitude, the daughter sang out, ‘My soul rejoices in the loving embrace of my mother.’
And the celebration continues!
Dave DeBonis: When Mary Theresa sent her version of the gospel to me and asked me to let her know what I thought, I wrote back that I thought that her parable was not only a feminine version of the original, but also a more contemporary version of the original. I think an important difference in MT’s version is that the daughter does not end up lacking in any material comfort; she finds great success. Rather, she is lacking in love and connectedness. To me, this speaks very clearly to the modern day emotional/spiritual destitution that can affect so many people who will never experience hunger or lack of work. Whatever success this woman achieved did not make her less lonely, did not give her a sense of being loved or of belonging. She has plenty of food but is hungry. I think many of us can relate to this.
Also note that in both versions of the gospel the loving, wise, and compassionate parent sees their child coming home “while still a long way off.” And in preparing for today I came across a beautiful passage describing how the returning child might have felt as he or she walked toward the parents’ house. Wondering how people would react and thinking that maybe the embarrassment of returning home would be too much. The author providing commentary on this passage writes: “That divine insight which discerns the first motions toward return, that eager meeting, and that kiss of welcome before one word of penitence or request had been spoken are all revelations of the heart of God for every wanderer who sets his face to return.” (www.biblehub.com). So both versions of the gospel help us to understand the love that the Divine has for us.
Finally, in the first reading, Father Greg Boyle calls us to pay attention, with compassion, to what people have to carry rather than judging them for how they carry it. His work with gang members from Los Angeles County exemplifies this message. He stands with amazing fidelity with young people who have to carry absent or abusive parents, homelessness, violence, hunger, addiction, lack of self-worth…..Father Boyle writes that through our love and kindness we return people to themselves (the beautiful person God created) and in so doing we are returned to ourselves—people filled with love. In another part of his book, Father Boyle writes that if we stand with those who are on the margins, the margins eventually will be erased and everyone will be standing in a circle of compassion. Everyone will be able to return home and to themselves.
Mary Theresa: As I was thinking about the parables, I was thinking of the older sibling who stayed at home. In the Parable of the Feisty Daughter, I thought about the older daughter as the one who stayed close to her mother - and in this parable the mother is the metaphor for the nurturing Divine Presence. So, the one who stays close to the Divine Presence is like the Holy One – non judgmental - loving with a spacious heart, a mystic, one who sees the holy in all things, all people – even the tattooed gang members in LA.