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~ Cut My Heart Out and Listen To It ~

One of the intrigues of Christ’s many parables is how they describe behavior so uncommon in human life. I will retell two of the most popular ones in the way they would most likely happen in our lives. The first is that of “The Prodigal Son,” found in Luke 15:11-32.

His friends asked the father, “Aren’t you concerned about your wayward son?”

“No,” he replied. “He’ll come back on his knees, wanting me to take him back in. I know he’s learning his lesson. When he does come home, that boy better have an apology and a good explanation ready.”

His son did return as his father predicted, and he had his apology ready. “Father, I dishonored you and the family. I’m not worthy to be treated as your son anymore. Just make me your servant and I will work for you for only my needs of food and a place to sleep.”

“You got that right. You will need to earn my respect, love and the honor of being called my son. Do you really understand what you did? We’ll find out over time. Meanwhile, you are going to learn to accept responsibility and consequences.”

The second parable, of the lost sheep, is recorded, as Jesus told it, in Luke 15:4-7.

After the shepherd made sure his flock was secure, he went out to look for that lost sheep that had a mind of its own. “Is he really worth the trouble?” he asked himself. “After all, I still have ninety-nine who were smart enough to follow me. I should stay with them and reward them. They’ll wonder about my loyalties if I leave them for one who decided to go his own way after all my calls. But if I don’t look for the rebel, my boss will be upset with me for losing even one of these animals. I’ll look until midnight. After that, he’s on his own, as he deserves.”

The shepherd found the lost sheep stuck in briars. “Serves you right. You wouldn’t be there if you listened to me. Out of a hundred sheep, you’re the only one still out here. I left the obedient ones back just to look for you. You should be grateful, but, obviously, you are just crying for yourself. You don’t really care about the trouble you put me through or your brothers I left just to try to find you.”

As though the sheep could understand, the shepherd continued. “I’m taking you out of those briars, but don’t think I’m carrying you back. You’re walking back on your own like you walked out here. You need to learn obedience and know who your master is and your place in the fold. So what if you are bleeding, you’re still walking behind me like you should have hours ago. After all, you had plenty of rest while I was up half the night looking for you. You need to learn a lesson. There will be no celebration on your return.”

If Jesus told stories like those, many people would be nodding in agreement: “That’s right. Teach them! They need ‘tough love’.” Many of my readers may even prefer, or better understand and relate to my adulterated versions of what Jesus really said. The contrast between the versions should help us to meditate on our human way of being children, parents, brothers, sisters and neighbors compared to the Jesus way.

I will end with a parable from the Hindu tradition in honor of mothers I learned from a friend. It is one I will never forget for it reminds me so deeply of both my own parents and of my Creator and Redeemer.

A young man’s girlfriend wanted to test his true love for her. She told him, “If you love me, you will cut out your mother’s heart and bring it to me.” He did that and carried her heart in his palm towards his girlfriend’s house. On the way, he tripped over a rock on the road and fell to the ground. Then he heard a voice crying out from the heart, “My son, are you all right?”

In the parables as Jesus told them, the father was anxiously waiting for his son’s return, every hour wondering, “Is he all right?” The shepherd was anxious to find the lost sheep, wondering, “Is he all right?” Then, at the end of His human incarnation, the Christ tells us to take out His heart, eat His body and drink His blood, and says, “Now, you will be all right.”

This is the passion of the Christ Christians observe this time of year. The compassion of the Christ is what we need to observe every day of every year. “Compassion” means “sharing, communing,” in His passion. Without it, we will never be “all right.” With it, we will always be “all right” because His voice from His sacrificial, sacred heart cries out to us in love, “I am with you always!”

John S. Hilkevich, Ph.D.
Spiritual Resource Services
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