There is a very interesting observation that Fr. Paulson Veliyannoor, an Indian Claretian Missionary, had of today’s Parable of the Prodigal Son (or the Merciful Father) that caught my attention while preparing this homily. He said,
Our very strength, without blessing, can become our weakness; and our weakness, when redeemed, can become our strength. The younger one’s strength is his eros, the capacity to enjoy life to its fullest. But left to itself, it wreaks havoc. The strength of the elder son is his reason, but the very same rational capacity leads him to find fault with his brother and alienate him (Bible Diary Reflection, March 2, 2013).
Fr. Paulson also noted how the father of these two sons approaches each of them through their unique strength and weakness. In the process, he teaches them how to use their uniqueness redemptively, at the service of life and love.
When the younger son formulates a reasonable confession of his sins, the father dismisses it immediately by ordering an eros-filled celebration. The younger son is a happy-go-lucky guy. The father welcomes him with merriment so he could easily feel at home.
The elder son uses reason and logical thinking to alienate himself from the father (“I was faithful to you and you did not even have me celebrate with friends”) and his brother, whom he called “This son of yours”. The father uses reasoning and logical arguments – “All that is mine is yours” – to persuade him to join the celebration. The father teaches the elder son to use his strength redemptively to build bridges rather than walls.
It is good to know our strengths and weaknesses. Knowledge of our strengths makes us grateful to God for His gifts. On the other hand, knowledge of our weaknesses makes us humble and trustful in God. When we know we are weak, it is easy to abandon ourselves in God’s hands. Cardinal Ratzinger once said: “Abandon yourselves in God’s hands, so that when you stumble, you’ll fall in God’s hands”.
While self-knowledge is important, it is imperative that our weakness must be redeemed while our strength must be blessed. Otherwise, our good qualities can only cause us vanity that weakens our soul. And our weakness can generate only despair that wreaks havoc to our spirit.
To redeem our weakness, we must always consider that, as St. Josemaria Escriva once said: “Our defects and weaknesses can become ‘fertilizers’ to our sanctification or holiness”. Just as the farmer makes use of dead leaves and excretion of animals to fertilize his plants, so God makes good use of our failures and defects to make us closer to Him.
Every day, we must not forget to give thanks to God for the little successes in our endeavors, for our strength in the apostolate and for our talents. Gratefulness is the secret of happiness. One author writes: “It is not happiness which makes us grateful; it is gratefulness which makes us happy”.
We ask the Blessed Virgin to help us to be grateful for our strengths and to be redemptive of our weaknesses.