Everyone But Me

change--do you want to change the world, start with yourself.preview

This Sunday’s Gospel is an all-time favorite, the parable of the Prodigal Son. Perhaps you have been part of a retreat, or a class, or a homily which asked “To whom in the story do you relate to?”

Honestly? I always try to relate to the older brother. His “sin” is that he feels jealous when the father welcomes back the “bad” son. It’s a safe choice. Then, if the speaker invites me to share my choice with others, it will be cozy to imagine that I’m the guy not doing anything wrong with the solitary vice of getting justifiably ticked off. If I say that I relate to the older brother, then I know I’ll come off with the posh sense of being “not that bad of a guy.” It’s a good default and one that doesn’t require me to admit my mistakes.

Many times, I’ve heard people reflect on being the father in the story, and how powerful it is to forgive. Also a safe choice. A very powerful character in the story and one worthy of our ongoing aspiration. But something I’ve noticed is that none of us really like the idea of comparing ourselves to the prodigal son. None of us like admitting that we are they one’s out there messing up, but if we look around the world, it seems like there are a lot more people who are messing up than there are fathers who are forgiving or brothers with an justifiable envy complexes. Why is that?

Barring another snowstorm, our second grade class will come to church for the Sacrament of Reconciliation this week. So part of my work will be to assist the families and children as they come before the grace of the Sacrament and allow God to love them. Their only cost is to have the courage to say “I’m sorry.”

Now, when I look around the world, I don’t often think that a clandestine clutch of second graders are causing the bulk of the problems. They haven’t exactly mastered systemic control over society for the implementation of universal malady. And yet, it is easy for them to come to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and act like the Prodigal Son, at least easier for them than for most of us. Maybe that is where the problem lies. Hopefully their act of faith can illuminate our own dimness.

Engaging in the parable of the Prodigal Son helps to illustrate a great deceit. We tend to think that the world’s problems are caused by “everyone but me.” Logically that can’t be the case. I am part of society and society has problems. Ergo, I am part of the problem, but also part of the solution.
I can’t change the world, but I can change myself.

It’s a little mantra I like to say to counter the innate impulse that I want to change the world, but not myself. You probably won’t be with us this week when the second graders take their First Reconciliation, but I hope knowing of their innocent willingness to say “I’m sorry” can be an inspiration to you.
Perhaps change starts by more earnestly praying the Confetior at Mass. You know, the prayer that goes “I Confess, to you my brothers and sisters, that I have greatly sinned…” Or maybe it is taking time to meditate and recall how you can change for the better. Perhaps the example of the second graders is enough to inspire you to come back to the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Saturdays at 3:00pm or by appointment). Or perhaps you’ll just recognize a relationship that has been harmed and you’ll have the courage to reach out to them and say “I’m sorry.” Whatever it is, I hope the story of the Prodigal Son serves as a marker in your spiritual journey, reminding you that it isn’t everyone else who needs to change. It starts with me. It starts with you. It starts with us.

-David Heimann, Pastoral Associate

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