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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Robert Barron » Robert Barron - Everything He Has Is Yours

Robert Barron - Everything He Has Is Yours

Robert Barron - Everything He Has Is Yours

Peace be with you. Friends, our Gospel reading for this Fourth Sunday of Lent is one of the greatest stories ever told, one of Jesus' most famous parables: the parable of the prodigal son. And I think in a way it tells us everything we need to know about our relationship to God, but we have to read this story very carefully. It is so artfully crafted and so spiritually rich. Look how it begins. "A man had two sons". Now that's by the way, that's a classic biblical starting point. There's so many stories in the Bible about the two sons, the two brothers. "A man had two sons, and the younger of them said to his father, 'Father give me the of share of the estate that's coming to me.'"

Now, right away, we're meant to meditate on this spiritual transition, if you want. We're all the children of God. Whatever we have is from God. I mean, my whole being is a gift. The idea is to take that gift that we've been given and make of it a gift to others, which then causes the original gift to increase. That's the physics we're talking about. God is love. Out of that love God gives us whatever we have. Now, if I in turn give that away to others, then the original gift increases in me (what did Jesus say?) thirty, sixty, and a hundred-fold. You give away the divine life that you've received and you get more of the divine life, but it's only in that loop of grace, "gratia," gift, you receive it and then you give it, that you come alive. There's the whole Bible.

So with that in mind, listen again to the younger son's words. "Father give me my share of the estate that's coming to me". Give me my share coming to me, three times he emphasizes "me". "I want to have all of this as my possession". Now watch what's happened there: instead of giving the gift that he's received, he wants to hang onto the gift as his possession. What does that do? It interrupts the loop and the flow of grace, and therefore the divine gift stops being what it's supposed to be. It now becomes this little possession of mine. That's sin, everybody. That's what sin looks like. I love too this, the detail on it, there's something awful about it, but I mean almost comical: What the son is saying to his loving father is, why don't you hurry up and die? In other words, "I'm not willing to wait for you to die to get my share of the inheritance. Give it to me now".

I mean, it's hard to imagine anything more insulting to his father. How often we sinners insult the giver of the gift. How often do we make demands as our expectations, "give me, come on, what's the matter with you God"? Everything we have is already a gift. But listen now, God respects our freedom. So when we turn rebellious against God, I mean, he doesn't turn us into puppets, he lets us feel the consequences of our decision. So we hear the father divided up the property. Is this what he wanted? No. But it's what his son demanded. And so, respecting his freedom, he lets it happen. Well, it's the tragic moment isn't it? The tragedy of sin is all there. God's grace by our rebellion turns into our property and a possession. We lose our way.

Now look how beautifully this story recounts this. Where does the son go? Well, it says in our translation he wanders into a far country. I love the Greek though that's behind this. The Greek says he goes into the "cora macra". What's macra? Big, macroscopic, and so on. What's the cora? It's the open space. He goes, in other words, into the great emptiness. What's the source of fullness in life? When he's connected to his father, when he receives the gift from his father, given as a gift, he then is planted in a place of spiritual life, life, abundance. But, when he turns the divine gift into his own little possession, he ipso facto, by an inevitable spiritual physics, wanders into the cora macra, the great empty space.

Now fellow sinners listening to me right now, you know exactly where he went, because we've all been there. Whenever we reject the divine grace, that's exactly where we wander, into the great emptiness. Now look what happens there; he quickly, we hear, squanders all of his wealth. Well of course he does, because he's violated the law of spiritual physics. How do you keep the divine life? By giving it away. There's the whole spiritual life. There's the whole Bible. How do you keep the divine life? You give it away. When you try to turn it into a possession, you inevitably lose it. It's the high paradox, and Jesus says it all the time. The prophets say it all the time. The one who would gain his life, he has to lose his life. You try to cling to your life, you will lose it. Same principle here, same principle. It's the dynamic, the spiritual physics of the cora macra; the tighter I cling to it, the less I have of it. He hires himself out to feed the pigs.

Now, we see that as bad enough, but if you're a Jew now in the first century, the pigs? This unclean animal? That's where he's been reduced now, that he's hired himself out to feed pigs. In fact, he's so hungry that the pods he's feeding the pigs look good to him. He's hit rock bottom. That's what we're saying here. Anyone that's been through a twelve-step process knows what I'm talking about there, to hit rock bottom. When you know it can't get any worse. I love the fact here in the cora macra, it's all about hiring. It's a purely economic sort of relationship. No one's giving him anything. He's not giving anything in return. It's all a matter of strict economics. So it goes in the land of the cora macra. Having hit bottom, he realizes, "I'm lost. I mean, even my father's hired hands have more than enough to eat, and here I am longing after what I'm feeding the pigs".

And so, he makes the journey back. Now fellow sinners, this is beautiful. There's always the possibility of coming back to God. Never ever feel, "I'm so deep in the cora macra, I'm so deep in despair and loss that I can't come home". No, no, you can always come back, but you've got to summon the courage. And it's very important, isn't it? I mean, God isn't just going to do everything for us. I mean, we have to summon the courage to get up and make our way back. But then that beautiful detail: "While he was still a long way off, the father sees him".

How many of us are caught in finally a deist understanding of God as this distant first cause or distant force, or even worse, God as a sort of harsh moral lawgiver that's just waiting for us to make a mistake and pounce on us. No, no, those are awful, unbiblical understandings of God. What's God like? He's like that father who sees the son a long way off. What does that mean? It means he's been looking for him. He's been looking for him ever since the son left. There's never been a moment, never a day when the father said, "Ah, good riddance. This kid that insulted me and he took whatever I'd given him, I mean, the heck with him". No, no, no. Waiting for him, watching for him, looking for him. That's what God is like. Fellow sinners, what good news for us as we make our way back; we know that we've got a God that's been looking for us.

And then this detail, which I love, and we're going to, I think, miss the significance, but first-century Jews didn't. It says the father then ran down the hill to meet his son. Well, there was an adage at the time, they say, that the clothes of an old man should never flow. And what that means is, you're an old man, you're the respected elder in the community. You sit in place and the younger ones and the servants and so on and your children and grandchildren, they come to you. And that's appropriate; the old man should sit there not exerting himself, but people should come to him. Well, here's this image now of this older man, this father, and he's running down the hill with a reckless abandon, throwing caution and respectability to the winds.

That's what God is like, everybody. That's what God is like as he runs down the hill to greet us. And then we hear beautifully he put a ring on his finger. Well, what's that? It's a wedding ring. What does God want? This is Bible from page one of Genesis to the last page of Revelation: God wants to marry his people. Isaiah told us that. Jesus comes as the bridegroom, the Church is his bride. That image runs right through the whole Bible. What's sin? Sin is a breaking of that marriage relationship. It's the rupturing of it. So now, the son that comes back seeking forgiveness, well, the father puts a ring on his finger, the ring of marriage, of healed relationship. What does he say? "This son of mine was dead, and has come back to life".

See, where do you die spiritually? In the cora macra. And when you cling to the divine life, try to make it your own possession, that's how you die spiritually. How do you live? By coming back into this graced relationship with the Father. And so, yes, you've got the ring back on your finger, and yes, you were dead, but now have come back to life. Beautiful, beautiful. And many of us in reading this great story stop there and say, "Well, isn't that enough"? Well, no, because the last part of the story in many ways is the most important, I think, because then we hear about the older son, so superficially different from his younger brother, but actually was in the same spiritual space.

Even though he was physically close to home, he was in the cora macra too. The great emptiness. How do we know? Well, listen to his language when he finds out that the father has killed a fattened calf and put a ring on his son's finger and is having a celebration. What does the older brother say? "For years I have slaved for you. I never disobeyed any of your orders, yet you never gave me so much as a kid goat to celebrate with my friends. And then this son of yours comes home and you kill the fattened calf".

Well, look at the language again. "Slaved for you". I've been your slave. You're my master. I've never disobeyed you. It's a relationship of command and obedience. I mean, even though he's physically close to the father, he's completely missed the father's spirit. He insists on being in this kind of purely economic relationship to him of exchange. You do this, I'll do that. You're good to me, I'll be good to you. See that's all cora macra language. That's all the language of calculation and hiring and firing. No, no, that's not how God wants to relate to us, but rather, in this loop of grace, I give, you find a way to give it away, and I'll give even more.

Now we're talking. Listen what the father says, "My son, you are with me always and everything I have is yours". If you can only believe it. See that's the problem with the older brother, he can't believe it. "Everything I have is yours. Don't you get it? I'm all about the giving of gifts". God gains nothing from the world. How could he? He created the whole thing. God doesn't benefit from us. Rather, everything we have is sheer gift. Everything I have is yours if only you could believe it in your heart and then find a way, listen, to conform yourself with that same manner of being. Giving away what I've given to you, you'd find your whole life is like a great celebration. Your younger brother was in the same mess you were, but he's come back to life. Implication to the older brother is it's time for you as well. Now, does he respond? We don't know. We don't know. We're both these brothers, all of us sinners. Can we find the right way to relate ourselves to the God who is nothing but gift-giving, nothing but love? And God bless you.
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