• Wartakanlah Injil kepada segala makhluk.
    Mrk 16:15

  • 你们往普天下去, 向一切受造物宣传福音
    谷 16:15

  • Everything is possible by the power of the Holy Spirit’s Grace.
    St Arnold Janssen

  • Segala sesuatu menjadi mungkin dalam kekuatan karunia Roh Kudus.
    St. Arnold Janssen

  • 我当传教士不是为主牺牲,而是上主给我的最大恩赐

  • Với sức mạnh Ân Huệ của Chúa Thánh Thần, Mọi việc đều có thể được.
    St Arnoldus Janssen

  • Preach the Gospel to the whole creation./Anh em hãy đi khắp tứ phương thiên hạ, loan báo Tin Mừng cho mọi loài thọ tạo
    Mk 16:15

  • There are many different gifts, but it is always the same Spirit.
    1 Cor 12:4

  • And the Word became flesh and lived among us.
    Jn 1:14

  • Let the word of Christ, in all its richness, find a home with you.
    Col 3:16

  • To proclaim the Good News is the first and greatest act of love of neighbour.
    St Arnold Janssen

  • 传扬天国福音是第一且最大的爱近人行动

  • Có nhiều đặc sủng khác nhau, nhưng chỉ có một Thần Khí/
    1 Cor. 14:4

  • 圣言成了血肉,寄居在我们中间
    若 1:14

  • Ada rupa-rupa karunia, tetapi Roh satu
    1 Kor 12:4

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Friday, 08 March 2013 10:37

Fourth Sunday of Lent - Year C

Written by Fr Asaeli Raass SVD

Parable of the Compassionate Elder (In the context of Fijian Culture)

Gospel (Luke 15:1-3,11-32)

Let’s face it.
We’re all prodigal children. For me the real hero of the story is the compassionate Elder. Elders are teachers of true values and philosophies that last forever. They touch the hearts of the younger generation with their symbolic connection to the past and knowledge of cultural and spiritual leadership.

In many community-centred cultures like Fiji, maintaining good relationships with our elders or parents is the key to strengthening the bonds of kinship and well-being within the community. It is for the overall mental and psychological health that they remain as a community. Strong nuclear families make better community and stronger individuals. Hence the gravest form of punishment in communal set-ups is to be excommunicated from a community.

In Fiji, the father (elder)-son relationship is absolutely crucial to the perpetuation of the fullness of life in the family and community as a whole. It is not about patriarchy or disoriented masculinity. It’s about providing the best preparation for a productive manhood, not just for the son’s future family but for the needs of the whole village. In no way can that relationship be destroyed. Hence the son has to be faithful to his father and the father has to be faithful to his son. Obviously, this relationship can be broken, human as we are. When this relationship is broken, there is one unwritten rule which the son and the father understand. The father must try his best to get his son back. The son must try his best to get his father back. Hence a process of reconciliation has got to take place one way or another. Both parties have to be united for the sake of the nuclear family and community cohesion. They are expected to do whatever is necessary for the sake of reconciliation and beyond.

However, the father and the son are not expected to do it alone. The other elders and members of the community are culturally bound to get involved. No one is a spectator in a process of healing and public confession. In Fiji, this process is publically ritualised or sacramental through a practice of gift-exchange and feasting. It is never private. This ritual is as profound as the Sacrament itself that takes place in the confessional booth. And it takes a well trained eye to observe the subtleties. It is through this public giving and receiving that both parties express repentance in a visible and accepted way. Words are not necessary. It expresses communion, and re-establishes good relationships for everyone to see. Still, both parties must stand ready to do the day and night shift. Bridges are built from both banks of the river.

Jesus' use of this parable to expresses the image of the God/person relationship speaks volumes to my cultural tradition. It goes beyond the father-son relationship. It could be a mother-daughter relationship.

It says to me that God, the compassionate Elder, takes the risks to let his son makes his own choice, even if the results would be disastrous. God allows us to sin but is also the restless lover who waits restlessly and continuously in expectation for our return. It is the God who comes running after us while we are slowly dragging our feet to come back to Him. It is the God who is not afraid to display his emotions extravagantly in public, risking a loss of face and dignity. It is the God who also includes others in the celebration of life renewed.

It says to me that we are all prodigal children in need of renewal and transformation. We see the image of ourselves, and of humanity, wayward and self-willed. We too, like the younger son, are even obliged to ‘go back home’ – to help mend that broken relationship knowing that, in this Elder we shall find a welcome and forgiveness. It says to me that people do change. “He came to himself”. It says to me that whenever the Eucharist is celebrated with sincerity and love, then it truly becomes a meal of reconciliation and jubilation. It goes on to say that no matter how far we are away from home, the compassionate Elder continues to love us; the light is kept always burning in the front room. Now that gives me great hope and courage to hang on in there.

In conclusion, we find this community-minded Elder and God who runs from the younger son to the elder brother trying to bring them together, trying to convince each of his love for the other. Only when he has done that will his joy be complete.

Five questions for further reflection:
a) What is our attitude towards those who have wandered far from the faith?
b) When was the last time we invited ‘sinners’ to our homes?
c) Can we cope with a God imaged by the father in this parable?
d) Can we be part of a family or church whose hospitality is extravagant?
e) How can personal repentance be expressed through visible and tangible signs?

Last modified on Friday, 10 May 2013 09:45