Sunday, October 12, 2008
Homecoming, Specks and Planks
This is Mr. Weber's address to the students of JPII on Monday, October 13, 2008
Welcome to home coming week!
As you know, homecoming is a time for us to celebrate as a school and invite our alumni to “come back home” to their “alma mater” (in Latin, “nourishing mother”). We hope to see a lot of those alums for our game on Friday night, especially.
As we think aboout homecoming this week, we are reminded of the most famous story of homecoming in Scripture, Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son. You remember the story: a father has two sons, one of whom is responsible and hard working, the younger son who lives frivolously. This second son asks the father for his share of the inheritance, moves away, becomes a player, and wastes all his money on women and wine, until he is penniless and hungry—so hungry, in fact, that he even desires to eat the garbage that pigs eat. Coming to his senses, he decides to go back to his home and live as a servant to his family, realizing his family’s servants live better than he. But the father sees him coming down the road, runs out to meet his ne’er do well son, hugs and kisses him and tells his servants to kill their best calf—there is going to be a huge party. Jesus tells us through this parable about God’s great mercy and love for us, and that he’ll forgive us for whatever we do wrong if have the courage to return to him.
But there's more to the story, and I will translate the rest of the parable loosely. The older brother is having none of it. I think most of us can relate to this brother. While his lazy little brother is out there drinking and carousing, he’s back at the farm, milking the cows, acting responsibly. And now his brother, having blown half of the family’s money, has the audacity to re-appear, hat in hand. But even worse, his soft-hearted father, instead of being rightfully indignant and angry, welcomes him back to the family unconditionally, and even throws him a party. Outrageous! Unfair!
“Son, the father asks, “What’s the matter?” “I can’t believe you’re just taking him back, like nothing’s happened”, the son says. “I’ve been working hard all this time and you don’t even give me a scrawny goat to share with my friends, but you’ve killed our best cow and are throwing a huge party for that loser brother of mine.” “Son”, the father says, “you are always with me, and all that I have is yours. But it is fitting to celebrate. Your brother was dead, and now he’s alive. He was lost, but is found”.
The parable ends there. We never find out what the older brother decided to do, but if I were guessing, he didn’t come around too quickly. I can’t imagine he went to that party. You see, one of the great lessons of this parable is that God is much more forgiving and merciful with us than we are to each other. We LIKE it when someone gets what’s coming to him.
A few years back, my friend was driving down the interstate and a car passed him like he was standing still—it must have been going 120 miles/hour. At first he was shaken, but then he got angry and pulled out his cell phone, dialed 911, and reported this lunatic to the police, travelling south on I-65 at such and such mile-marker. The dispatch operator said she’d report it to the troopers up the road. He hung up the phone, smiling, looking forward to seeing this idiot pulled over ahead. Sure enough, about 20 miles further on down, my friend saw the blue lights flashing ahead and thought triumphantly—yes, jerk, you’ve been nailed—until he got up to the site and found out there had been a terrible wreck, which didn’t make him feel quite as good. But, he rationalized, maybe that will scare him to death, hope he’s OK, and he forgot about it. The next day, the wreck was in the newspaper. Turns out the driver was a 22 year old and his wife was pregnant, and her water had broken, and in panic, he was driving her to the hospital. He was killed in the wreck, she was badly banged up, but they did an emergency C-section and saved the baby.
My friend felt like a heel. He was so quick to judge, so quick to want justice, like all of us. Fortunately, God judges us more kindly that we do each other. Let us, this week, as we celebrate homecoming together, try to act a little more like God and a little less like ourselves. Maybe it will help keep us from seeing that speck in our classmates’ eye and recognize the plank that is too often in our own.
Enjoy homecoming this week. Seniors, this will be the one of the firsts in a series of lasts for you…your last high school homecoming. Even as we have fun together and dress in all these funny outfits, let’s not forget that we’re in school, and we still have work to do.