called to maturity

Mar 23, 2019

I was in an airport at 1.30pm yesterday afternoon when the TV was turned to full volume so that the Muslim call to prayer could be clearly heard.  Every person I could see seemed to know what was happening and stopped where they were to prepare for the two minutes of national silence which began at 1.32pm

It was evident that many around me were, like me, deeply moved by this gesture and the silence spoke audibly and eloquently of our many feelings of pain and hope.

We are pained and ashamed that such a terrorist act of evil has happened in our own land. We grieve for our Muslim sisters and brothers who have died in the act of prayer, martyrs for their faith. Our support and love reaches out to all who suffer, especially the families of those who have died. We feel remorse too at our own past hesitation to embrace difference as healthy and necessary diversity and beauty and we hope for a future where fear is transformed by love.

And like so many wars and similar tragedies throughout history, religion is tragically at the centre of the difference.

An old Pete Seeger anti-war song comes to mind – “When will we ever learn? When will we ever learn?”

Today’s gospel passage is perhaps one of the best known scripture passages of all. It is usually titled the Prodigal Son but it’s really about the loving father.

The problem with this parable that we know so well known, the moment we hear the first line: “a man had two sons” we immediately recall the entire story and jump to the punch line without savouring the journey and its complex stages and powerful messages.

Take a moment today to slow down and consider this parable with new ears, and let’s focus on the two brothers since these characters tell us a lot about two common and immature forms of faith.

The one brother who stayed at home, is perhaps too afraid to step out into the world, hiding in the security of a childhood safety. A healthy person will instead seek an independence from childish blind obedience which is usually motivated by fear. This leads a healthy child to a stage of questioning, pushing and testing boundaries.  But this is where the prodigal brother gets stuck. He went out into the world beginning to seek a life of his own but became trapped in a teenage fight for independence, compulsively grasping at a mirage of freedom wrongly understood.

Instead freedom is a gift calling him to maturity so enabling him to follow his deepest desire.

A few years ago Pope Benedict reflected on this parable suggesting that “the two sons represent two immature ways of relating to God: rebellion and childish obedience”.

Whenever wars are fought and terrorism is promoted in the name of religion you will find immaturity of faith. This has happened throughout history between three great monotheistic faiths: Islam, Judaism and Christianity. Even within our own Christian faith inter-denominational wars have been fought. And even more tragically within individual church communities tensions between theological perspectives too often lead us to abandon communication and break into schism.

“Freedom is the power, rooted in reason and will,
to act or not to act, to do this or that,
and so to perform deliberate actions on one’s own responsibility.
By free will one shapes one’s own life.
Human freedom is a force for growth and maturity in truth and goodness;
it attains its perfection when directed toward God, our beatitude.

“The more one does what is good, the freer one becomes.
There is no true freedom except in the service of what is good and just.
The choice to disobey and do evil is an abuse of freedom and leads to “the slavery of sin.”

Catechism of the Catholic Church par 1731ff

An Invitation

  • Invite Jesus to reveal to you how he is calling you to greater maturity of faith. Our Western European climate misunderstands maturity as being able to do whatever we want whenever we want. This is not freedom but anarchy and too easily becomes terrorism. How is Jesus inviting you to deeper adult faith today? Hear this call and make a decision to follow trusting that Jesus will lead and strengthen you. Very quickly you will experience more abundant life.


  1. Remembering that everything is a gift from God and being grateful frees you to love. Thank you Fr John

  2. It is perhaps too easy to see the brother who stayed as failing to accept maturity, but think about it – big brother goes off to see the world and this limits the options young brother has. Dad still needs a helping hand, still need family at hand to make his efforts seem worthwhile. We need to stop seeing everything as obvious, cut-and-dried and open our hearts and minds to all the possibilities of people’s actions.

    • I agree entirely. I see it as that son showed respect and loyalty to his father and chose to stay and carry out his duties.
      I find if quite offensive to read the inference that is written in Father John’s dialogue today. Remember there are always more than one explanation of what has occurred.Sara

  3. Thank you Fr John. Absolute clear analogy of the two characters presented by the two brothers that symbolises times and moments when I got stuck in that misuse of the free gift of free will . Times when it appears rightly “the right thing “ to do responding to inner struggle for independence .

  4. The wisdom of Father John’s message today highlights the blindness of assuming one’s own worth. In the end it is The Redeemer who will let us know.

  5. Hi Fr John, the father of the two sons was showing love for both of them. I could have disowned my brother in earlier years but I stood by him and now we are quite close, I am his sister.

  6. It was refreshing to read a different take on the brother that stayed. I value your insight Fr John and your daily reflections.

  7. Aren’t both brothers flawed just as we are.?One by the outcome of decisions rooted in his choices but who also had the remorse and humility to seek his father, the other loyal but flawed by a narrow obedience and hardness of heart. The great message is in the response of the father who reaches it to love in both. Thanks john for promoting us to look deeper to scripture


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