I believe a forgiven sinner, one who has undergone conversion, becomes a zealous follower of Christ. This is primarily because he/she is a “direct” beneficiary of the healing and redemptive mission of Christ. Thus he/she is more inspired and would burst into action.
This is the story behind this Sunday’s Gospel. Christ cites the most despised sinners, tax collectors and prostitutes as exemplars, comparing them to the good son, the one who turned out to be obedient to the father’s command. They embody positive results of the adage “action speaks louder than words” or as Ignatius of Loyola put it, “love is best expressed in deeds.”
Let me propose a deepening of our reflection on this Parable of the Two Sons. More than simply obedience, let us look at this parable from the grace of integrity; reintegrating, aligning one’s life and person to regain integrity.
What I find interesting is what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in his national bestseller, “Flow,” points out in the final chapter, aptly entitled, “The Making of Meaning.” It is quite normal, in the tradition of Freud, to expect and understand how a person with severe early childhood trauma ends up having dysfunctions, being a neurotic as an adult.
What is extraordinary, according to Csikszentmihalyi, are the persons who, because of their suffering in early childhood, turned out to be great in their chosen field.
There are many reasons for this, but what I found most interesting was Csikszentmihalyi discovered that such persons who were able to overcome the disintegration and reintegrate into a great person were in their early childhood when their parents told or read stories to them.
Csikszentmihalyi writes that stories, and allow me to quote, “when told by a loving adult whom one trusts, fairy tales, biblical stories, heroic historical deed, and poignant family events are often the first intimations of meaningful ordering.”
This Sunday’s Gospel parable gives us the stories of two sons, each with his own dysfunction, but the first son is able to recover and reintegrate. The same is true in the more famous Parable of the Prodigal Son. The prodigal son recovers and reintegrates.
The prodigal son was able to recover because he realized his mistake and took responsibility for it and, thus, humbled himself. He saw meaning in a mistake. From the realization and admission of the mistake, the process of reintegration was “implemented” when he acted on his realization and admission.
This story gives us one key element in the process of reintegration, which is often glossed over: action, acting on the grace of realization and admission, or simply awareness.
What was remarkable about Rico Yan was in the last two weeks of his life, he entered into a depth of awareness and acceptance of himself. In those two weeks, almost daily, Rico and I would talk.
Less than two days before he died, Rico clearly told me that he was ready to act on the grace of awareness and acceptance. He reintegrated and saw meaning in everything we went through in life.
We were supposed to have dinner with his mom Monday of the following week and after the dinner we were to begin our journey together with me as mentor (his word then; I believe now we are simply companions). He even asked that we see each other twice a week.
In the days after Rico’s death, all the more I learned how much Rico really reintegrated, from the stories shared, the tributes paid and, most important, I think, the impact of his death on our people as shown in the long lines that stretched for days, from La Salle Greenhills all the way to Camp Crame; the thousands who lined Ortigas, Edsa, Slex and Sucat to catch a glimpse of his funeral procession and the thousands more waiting at Manila Memorial Park.
When I learned about his death after lunch of Good Friday 2002, all the memories of the two weeks of accompanying Rico came back clearly.
When I got to my office I started to write everything I could remember, reconnecting with Rico. This was what I remembered about that March 22 realization:
“If we can teach young people to work hard, to persevere—to endure the pain—in making something out of themselves and in pursuing a dream, they will surely have character. And when our generation takes over the leadership of this country… we will be a nation of character!”
This was his discerned mission and he clearly stated he wanted to be a public leader, even aiming for the presidency of the land.
The night before his departure for Palawan, in our last conversation, he wanted me to give him some points to reflect on and pray over. Even then, he had acted and most certainly it was with excitement and zeal.
He died with an integrity that I believe now is “our ticket to heaven.” This is one lesson of the Parable of the Two Sons this Sunday.