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Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Prodigal Sons and Daughters

No person I know is without sin.

I have never met a perfect person.  I have however met a lot of saints in the making; men and women determined to do their best one day at a time with their ultimate goal being the promise of eternity in heaven.

But what of the prodigals?  How do we deal with those people who, through a series of circumstances, reject our religion and our values - and, sometimes, us - and go about their merry way seemingly unaffected by the ugliness of their lives?  It is made worse, often, because their lives do not seem ugly.  In fact, my experience has been that sin never looks like its effect on my soul; rather, it is beautiful and shiny and glittery and holds forth a promise of adventure and fun.  I maintain that if sin looked like its effect  - if, in fact, I had a my personal portrait of Dorian Gray and could actually see the toll sin takes on me - I would have a much easier time of it.  Sin  would not be difficult to resist and I would be able to walk confidently through the gates of heaven, nodding a quick, 'hello!' to St Peter as I passed through those Pearly Gates.

When I lived the way I wanted, with little regard for other people and certainly no real respect for myself, I gave little thought to how my actions were impacting my immortal soul.  I was a little concerned for how my behavior might impact my ability to con people out of money and resources but even that did not cause me too many sleepless nights. I did what I did, took what I wanted and lived according to my feelings and emotions because of some vague sense of entitlement.  I wanted what I wanted when I wanted it.  Simple.

Getting sober in the manner I chose to get sober meant taking look at myself - my past and my present - and asking myself how much of the mess I was in was a direct result of my own selfishness.  That required some introspection, an honest evaluation of what had happened in my life and why, and the pain that kind of evaluation caused was real and deep.  To confront my own failings, taking out of the equation everyone else's actions or inactions as well as everything that had been done TO me by some pretty awful people, required courage and resilience.  It required grace.

Most prodigal sons and daughters stay away from The Church and the families who love them out of fear - fear that they are going to be asked to do stuff they do not feel comfortable doing as well as fear that they will not be fully forgiven and accepted back into the fold.  I certainly had that fear - how could those perfect members of my family (moms, aunts, cousins) who had never killed their own children, slept with too many men, taken all those drugs and drank all that booze, want to sit around the family dining room table eating ravioli with ME?

And how about that Church of mine?  I mean, okay - Jesus founded it so there is really no place else for a thinking Christian to go to worship but what about THOSE people?  Would I need to keep my sordid past a deep and dark secret?  Would the mere scandal of my presence be too much for them?  Would I be allowed back in and accepted in a way that would translate into movie invitations and being allowed to sit next to them at the Knights of Columbus Fish Fry Dinner?

The reality of life is this - sometimes the answer is Yes and sometimes it is No.  Some members of my family are so thrilled with the return of the Prodigal Daughter that they are willing to overlook my past mistakes, forgive me when I make new ones and move forward in relationship with me.  Others are not.  Some members of my Church welcomed me home and see my dark past as one of my greatest assets.  Others think I should never be allowed in the front door and discount anything I have to say because I am a former drunk, a post-abortive woman and a reformed slut (for want of a better word).

In other words, you cannot please all the people all the time - especially when it comes to redemption.

My life today is centered upon one thing - The Eucharist - and nothing is ever going to keep me from being able to receive Jesus Christ, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, again.  Because I made that decision over 20 years ago I have to go forward no matter what - no matter if I am loved on this earth or not, no matter if I have friends in my parish or not and no matter what the political beliefs of others may be or become.  I cannot allow myself to be driven from either sobriety or The Church because of petty conflicts or desires.  God wants me...and He cares that I accept Him, His Teachings and His Church as Truth.

Being a Prodigal means being willing to stand up and say, "That's what I am - a survivor.  I am a survivor of my own abuse.  I may be imperfect and I may be annoying as hell - but I am home."

Here's hoping you get home too.

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