Monday, 15 March 2010

On why I hate the prodigal son, Mary & Martha and Sunday's sermon

I *HATE* the parable of the prodigal son. And I will NOT be told that I'm supposed to like it, how it's about 'forgiveness', or how mean-spirited I'm being.

Sorry, folks, but the tale of the prodigal son SUCKS ROCKS. It sucks as much as Jesus rebuking Martha, who is going through all this work so HE can get fed and feel at home, whilst Mary is sitting on her comely Palestinian ass not lifting a finger. You know, Big J, I love you, really, I do. But this was the time to say, "Mary, stop gazing up at me lovingly and go help your sister with the cooking. In fact, *I'll* come help cook - and we'll do that party thing of TALKING IN THE KITCHEN!"

Deal done. They both get to listen to Big J and Martha gets some help. I so love my problem-solving skills. *Preen* And the thought of Jesus in an apron, elbow deep in flour, really does it for me.

The prodigal son. Where to start? Asks dad for his half of the inheritance. Fine. Goes off to shag, drink, go crazy, fine. Goes broke - irresponsible, not fine.

Decides he'd eat the husks the pigs would. Fine, go for it. Actions, consequences.

After years of not giving a toss (rather than having a terrible relationship and cutting ties), "Oh, I'll go to Dad, he'll at least give me what he gives the servants! I'll go say, 'Dad, I suck and don't deserve to be your son, that should do the trick!'''

Dude, WTF?

Every priest I've asked about this has told me that this is about real repentance. This isn't real repentance; this is 'how do I get food in my stomach because I was enough of a dumbass not to set some money aside to earn interest?' If it were real repentance, occasioned when he was rich and in the midst of bounty, I'd have sympathy.

But well, erm, let's read my paraphrase of the Jerusalem Bible, shall we? That's one of the most pre-planned emotionally manipulative pieces of dialogue I've ever seen. For me, the emotional tenor is utterly fake.

As Daniel said in his sermon, the younger son is selfish (he said it about the elder too, but I disagree with him there, and we'll come to that in a moment).

To my priests: If I presented THAT to you in the confessional, you'd kick my ass (Dom would, anyway, he can spot fake repentance at a distance that would put a sniper to shame).

So there's problem number 1: younger son's selfishness.

Problem #2: Dad's reaction. Fine, run towards him and hug him, he's your boy.

But FFS, THE FATTED CALF?????????????????????????? INVITE EVERYONE IN TOWN?


Maybe this is my sympathy as a fellow eldest, I don't know - but I think it's more than that. Here's the dutiful son - the one who has worked alongside his father, quietly, dependably, constantly for years. He doesn't even get an animal for a dinner with his friend.

But his father kills the fatted calf for this emotionally manipulative little BRAT who hasn't even really said, from the heart, 'I'm sorry'?

Damn right, he's angry. I'm angry for him.

Why? Because time after time, I see people like the eldest son get taken for granted - the people who are quiet, dependable, always there. The father can claim that 'what's mine is yours', blah blah, but he appears to have a very poor understanding of human nature. His eldest, the steady, dependable one, needs OVERT appreciation as much as the younger wayward son needs to be welcomed back to the family. And what does the younger son learn by this huge feast? Go squander your life and come back home - not only will Dad welcome you back, he'll kill the most valuable animal for you.

Hmmmmmmmmm. Tanya Byron wouldn't be impressed. Neither am I.

Welcome him back with a low-key family dinner, let his brother have a go, really bring him home. Then set him to work the next morning. He's home and is always welcome there, but being high-maintenance and high-drama will get him no more attention than that.

So let this be a lesson to us all: turn and thank those who are always there for you - dependable, strong, those you almost take for granted. They're your real treasures, the ones who will always be there when you need them.


Today's sermon:

1. Pro-life as first principle.

Response: Yes, if that isn't equated with 'anti-abortion'. They're not the same thing. To be pro-life is to maximize the ability of every human being to live their life to the fullest: that's anti-war, anti-death penalty, dealing with refugees in a humane way, being anti-discrimination, making sure all have access to the same education/opportunities, creating a vocational track that's as good and as respected as the university track, continuing adult education, health insurance for all, the best health care, being allowed to be yourself, and so on.

But you can be pro-choice and all that.

2. No Catholic can vote pro-choice.

Here, we will respectfully disagree. I have thought out my pro-choice position, am aware that I am in opposition with the Church and have made my peace with that - but I don't feel it is in opposition to my Catholicism, which is about loving God and loving my neighbour; compassion; being pushed to be what I am meant to be.

Keeping abortion safe and legal is part of that.

3. 'Value free education' is to be avoided.

Agreed - though we disagree on the problem here: my argument is that there is NO SUCH THING as 'value-free education' - whether or not you claim to be teaching values, you ARE. Far better to have them explicit than implicit so you can choose, challenge, consider them.

4. Rabbi Jonathan Sacks rocks.


5. Secular society is at fault for... [fill in the blank]

Mmmmmm. Don't think we can go there till we examine ourselves first - and I mean saying 'The Catholic Church isn't perfect; it has a long way to go.'

One of my friends, when I pointed this out after mass, said, "But the secular world isn't easy on us."

Perhaps, but stop and think. How does secular society perceive you? As an institution that sees itself as having 'the truth' and as being better than it is. When is it hard on you? When it becomes blatantly clear that the institution ISN'T - that people are just the same inside as out.

I think they have an excuse, and I think secular society can be one of your greatest gifts if you pay attention to the mirror it holds up.

6. Sex education bill - wrong.

Need to read it first. But if the 'teaching sex at 5' hysteria is as blown out of proportion as I suspect it is, and is really only about telling kids NOT to let anyone touch them in certain places, talk to an adult if they feel uncomfortable, etc., I have to be all for that. It might have made all the difference to me. Not with my parents, but with someone else.

7. If someone is left out, we're all left out.

*HIGH FIVE* Absofuckinglutely.

8. Society is more than an aggregate of individuals.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! FTW! I'll happily see any of Maggie Thatcher's quotes dismantled any day...

1 comment:

CEAD said...

Brava, she'enedra. I could not agree more.

I always hated the prodigal son, too, quite guilty, as I could never say so. I can remember being seven and listening to the story in church and feeling bothered. Part of it was a deep suspicion that upon his death, the father would divide the estate between the two sons all over again, leaving the poor devoted son with only a quarter.

Was the elder son selfish? We're all selfish. He was HURT, and angry, and rightfully so. I bet the father favoured the younger all the way through, and that is why the elder tried so hard to please his father. Forgiveness is one thing, but the father in the story takes it too far. He plays favourites.