The Ten Commandments as a Loving Home 24thSun. of Ord. Time – C
Exodus 32:7-11, 13-14 Psalm 51:3-4, 12-13, 17, 19 1 Timothy 1:12-17 Luke 15:1-32
Today’s gospel passage contains a parable that has been named in a variety of ways including: the Parable of the Prodigal Son, the Parable of the Good Father, and the Parable of the Two Brothers.The last title, by Pierre Grelot, focuses our attention on comparing the two brothers in the parable.
In commenting on this parable as the Parable of the Two Brothers, a theologian explains how the two brothers relate to freedom.
The first brother, the younger of the two, wanted to be free from his father’s home, free from the laws of his father’s home. The younger brother wanted to experience absolute independence, freedom from even relationships with his family, freedom to do whatever he wanted. He then left home with his inheritance and tried to enjoy life, tried to be happy by living without any reference to law, and without any reference to stable relationships. He defined freedom in a completely individualistic manner, as freedom to do whatever he wants as long as it feels good, without a care about the future, or other people and their desire also to be free.
This experience of individualistic freedom did not last long, for after quickly spending all his money the younger brother became hungry and wanted to return home. He wanted to return home where he could experience another type of freedom a freedom that is not individualistic, a freedom that is not do what I want on the spur of the moment without thinking about consequences of our actions.
Hungry, and feeling alone, the younger brother wanted to experience a freedom which the theologian identifies as “shared freedom,”shared freedom since those sharing the freedom can relate to one another and mutually support one another since they agree to live in a house that is structured by the Ten Commandments given to us by God the Father, our heavenly Father. Only in this house, only in the structure and laws this house provides can we truly experience freedom that we are created for since we are created to be social creatures, to be relational creatures. We are relational creatures, social creatures because we are created in the image and likeness of God who is relational, because God is triune, a Trinity of Persons.
Shifting our attention to the second brother, the theologian astutely observes that although the second brother obeyed his father, obeyed the laws of his father’s house he was not truly free since he secretly desired to experience the freedom his younger brother experienced when his younger brother left home and lived a lawless life. When his younger brother returned, the older brother angrily resented his father’s merciful treatment of the younger brother since he did not understand freedom as a relational reality as a shared reality. Rather he only understood freedom as autonomous freedom, as individualistic freedom and, consequently, also wanted to experience freedom in a non-relational manner, in a totally autonomous manner, but in this desire he only demonstrated to his father that although he lived in the structure of his family’s home, in the structure the Ten Commandments provides, he did not grasp that this social freedom is the true freedom is the only freedom that will ultimate bring us happiness.
Today, may we see the observance of the Ten Commandments as providing the structure of the heavenly Father’s home we are created to live in. Only by remaining in this home will we experience true freedom which is freedom that is participated in, which is freedom that others share in and can only share in if we all commit ourselves to follow basic laws of relational existence.
When we experience difficulty and even failure in living up to the requirement of the Ten Commandments, when we are tempted to run away from the home created by us by God to experience another kind of freedom that always will end up in disappointment and frustration may we respond by relying on the new law given to us through Jesus Christ, the New Law that does not replace the Ten Commandments but allows us to live the Ten Commandments in a joyful way where we see the Ten Commandments as the way to be social, relational. This New Law as the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, is “the grace of the Holy Spirit”.
James Tissot [Public domain], “James Tissot – The Return of the Prodigal Son (Le retour de l’enfant prodigue) – Brooklyn Museum,” https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Brooklyn_Museum_-_The_Return_of_the_Prodigal_Son_(Le_retour_de_l%27enfant_prodigue)_-_James_Tissot.jpg.
Rembrandt [Public domain], “Rembrandt, The Return of the Prodigal Son, 1662–1669 (Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg),” https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Rembrandt_Harmensz_van_Rijn_-_Return_of_the_Prodigal_Son_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg.
Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth, From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration, trans. Adrian J. Walker (New York: Double Day, 2007), Kindle location 2925 of 5265.
Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth, From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration, trans. Adrian J. Walker (New York: Double Day, 2007), Kindle location 2957 of 5265.
Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth, From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration, trans. Adrian J. Walker (New York: Double Day, 2007), Kindle location 3002 of 5265.
“Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1966,” vatican.va, http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p3s1c3a1.htm.