Homily: You Don’t Have to Stay a Lump

September 15, 2019 – Twenty-Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Readings: Exodus 32:7-14; 1 Timothy 1:12-17; Luke 15:1-32

The following homily was originally delivered at St. Pius X Church, Indianapolis in 2013:

There is a series of short Christian-based videos narrated by Rob Bell and produced by a company called NOOMA. One of the videos is titled Lump.

In the video, Mom was cleaning the kitchen, while two young boys, maybe four and six years old, were playing in the next room. She found a small rubber ball in the “junk bowl” where all the odds and ends of life seem to land – paper clips, rubber bands, batteries, a couple of pens, and a few stray pennies. She had never seen the rubber ball before and was curious where it came from.

So she called her two boys into the kitchen. She held up the small ball and said, “Do either of you know where this came from?” The 4-year-old immediately said, “Nope!” and jumped into the air, made a goofy noise, and ran off to play.

Meanwhile the 6-year-old was frozen, the life draining from his face. He talked quickly, “No, I don’t know where it came from. It’s the strangest thing. A little rubber ball. Where could that have come from? It’s the strangest thing. It’s like it just appeared. I have no idea where that rubber ball came from. It’s the strangest thing.” He had not moved an inch, and he had a very uncomfortable smile on his face.

This went back and forth, with Mom asking a few more questions, and her son being overly animated and overly amazed at the ball that had magically appeared. Mom was on to him, but she let him sweat. Then finally, she called him on it, indicating that she knew he took the ball from somewhere – maybe from a friend without asking, or a store without paying.

Think back to when you were a child. Remember how you felt when you realized you were “busted.” The boy ran upstairs.

Dad arrived home two hours later. Mom filled him in on the story, and indicated that she had not seen the boy since he ran upstairs. Dad went upstairs and checked the boys room. Not there. He looked in his brother’s room and the bathroom. Not there. Finally Dad opened the door of the parent’s room.

There, in the middle of Mom and Dad’s bed, under the covers, was a lump. The lump was breathing, but it was not moving. Dad pulled back the covers to reveal his 6-year-old son, soaked in sweat and trembling. He scooped up the lump, held him in his arms and sat on the edge of the bed.

The boy began to cry. He sobbed with deep breaths. Not saying a word, just crying as his Dad pulled him in tight to his chest and squeezed him in his arms.

Dad began to stroke his son’s hair and rocked him back and forth. Then he said, over and over again,

“There is nothing you could ever do to make me love you less.”

“There is nothing you could ever do to make me love you less.”

We hear this very same story in the Gospel today. In the parable of the Prodigal Son, the young son demanded his inheritance and struck out on his own. He rejected his father and the life he had been given. It was all about him. He spent every last dime on wastefulness and excess. It was not until he hit rock bottom that he realized — he was busted. He became the lump.

I have read and heard this parable many times. I have discovered that there is one word that makes the entire parable of the Prodigal Son come alive for me. A three-letter word that gives deeper meaning to the whole story. It is the word, “ran.”

“While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him.” (Luke 15:20)

The father didn’t wait for his son to get closer. He didn’t send one of his servants out to greet him. He didn’t walk to his son. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him.

His son had rejected him, taken half his money, and wasted all of the money on wild living. Yet, the father ran to his son. The father rejoiced, saying, “This son of mine was dead, and has come to life again; he was lost, and has been found.”

With the video in mind, I picture the father holding his prodigal son tightly, rocking him back and forth and saying, “There is nothing you could ever do to make me love you less.”

Total and unconditional love.

Therein lies the hope found in today’s Gospel message: there is nothing we could ever do to make God love us less. Nothing.

God is saying this to us over and over. What is keeping us from hearing it?

God is running to us. What is keeping us from allowing Him to pull us into his loving arms?

Perhaps it is shame. A dark offense that we are too ashamed to bring to him. Something we don’t talk about to family or friends. Something we keep hidden, and the shame is eating away at us. There is nothing we could ever do to make God love us less.

Maybe it is a sense of unworthiness. God couldn’t possibly love us because we are unlovable. We have fallen over and over again. We are broken and unsalvageable.

There is nothing we could ever do to make God love us less.

Or maybe it is fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of totally committing to God. Fear of being pulled into His arms and relinquishing all control over to Him. There is nothing we could ever do to make God love us less.

Reconcile with yourself. Reconcile with God. Say to Him, “I have sinned against you.” Reconciliation is simply allowing God to run to you. Allowing Him to take you in His arms and rock you gently. Allowing him to say, “There is nothing you could ever do to make Me love us less.”

You’re busted — now what?

You may be a lump, but you don’t have to stay a lump.

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