Monday, January 25, 2010

Which Character Are You?

The replies to my previous post by s-p and David have inspired me to write more on the subject of parables and the difficulties one has in applying them.

Take the Parable of the Prodigal Son, for example. I always used to identify with the Elder Brother, until some Orthodox person told me he represents the devil, created before Adam was, who is jealous of humankind, his younger "siblings". Well, I still do tend to identify with him. I mean, I think he has a point. Why is the only party his father ever gives in honor of the wicked son? What about the good one? Is this fair?

Or take the Good Samaritan. I always thought the point was, don't be like those uncaring people who passed by the beat-up man and didn't even stop to help him. Be kind and charitable instead, like the Good Samaritan. That was before another Orthodox person explained to me that I'm the one in need of the charity. I'm not a passerby; I'm the beat-up guy lying in the gutter! And the Good Samaritan is none other than Christ, who comes to my rescue.

It's hopeless, you see. You can never figure these things out. Well, you can, but to do it, you have to stop trying. Chuck all the rest, forget it,

Repent! Repent? But, but, but- okay.


Anonymous said...

Dear Anastasia: You ask some very appropriate questions. It is sad that most people are afraid to ask about the things that really trouble them. They are questions that touch on the meaning of the Kingdom our Lord proclaimed.

I think that the most important part of the answer is that our dear Lord did not call it “the Parable of the Prodigal Son.” He just told it, and many years later, when people already began to think that everything in Scripture is “all about us,” they gave it this name. I prefer to think of it as “the Parable of the Loving Father.” As most of the other parable our Lord told, this one has to do with the nature of the Kingdom.

The fact is that neither son was “good” or “wicked.” The older son could have had a party any time he wanted, but he was afraid to have any fun. So he labored without any joy, and he resented it, when his younger brother, who had not labored in his Father’s house at all, had a party thrown for him, to which the older son was also invited. As Fr. Schmemann wrote in his diary, “And for some reason, ‘religious’ people are always suspicious of joy.”

We know that all of heaven rejoices at the salvation of every sinner who is lost. So they have a party to celebrate every baptism. But that does not mean that our gracious Father does not love all of the children already in His Kingdom. Both the younger and the older son will continue to sin after the party is over. That is how it is in that part of the Kingdom that still dwells on earth. For our dear Lord came to save sinners.

As to the Parable of the Good Samaritan, I think that your Orthodox friend, as well as many Lutherans who hold the same view, is absolutely right. But we often miss some of the detail our Lord provided in this story and would like us to consider. The Samaritan, or our Lord, not only rescues the man and brings him to an inn, but He provides for him so that his future wellbeing would be insured. In other words, when our Lord brings us into His Kingdom, he does not abandon us there so that we have to fend for ourselves, but He provides us with the Lord, the Holy Spirit (this is not intended as an argument for the filioque; let us just say that we receive the Holy Spirit regardless of the procession), with the Eucharist, with His Word, with parents, family, pastors, priests, teachers, and His own blessed presence in our lives in order to bring us safely into the eternal Kingdom. For we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand.

Peace and Joy
George A. Marquart

Dana said...

Thank you for this post. I can really relate to it. I have always thought that I would have been like Martha and also like Thomas in the New Testament. I always resented Thomas being singled out as "Doubting Thomas" since the other disciples first doubted the account of Jesus' resurrection as well. Thomas was truly genuine--you gotta respect that (and Jesus very lovingly did). Anyway, thank you for a thought-provoking entry. I really appreciate George's comments as well.