What Do We Do with our Losses: Lent Four

  • Posted on Apr 4, 2019

            What Do We Do with Our Losses:

                                    The Choice between Resentment and Mourning



Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.  But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.  Luke 15:32


In the name of God, whose mercy allows us to live a life of forgiveness, love and healing.  AMEN.



Lord, have mercy upon us.

Christ, have mercy upon us.

Lord, have mercy upon us.


With Lent comes the Kyrie—right at the beginning of the service.

In place of the joyous Gloria.


A solemn plea for a solemn season.

Each Eucharist in Lent begins with a cry for God’s mercy.

A cry of God’s people

A cry of God’s people with a contrite heart.


Why have we for centuries begun Christian worship with the Kyrie—Lord, have mercy?


Today’s Gospel is the well known Parable of the Prodigal Son.

And I believe this parable gives us some clues about why we first cry “Lord, have mercy” in worship.


In Lent, we are called to look into the center of our being.  To look deep into our souls.

And when we do, we often encounter our losses


Nouwen says:  “Sometimes it even seems that life is just one long series of losses. When we are born we lose the safety of the womb, when we went to school we lost the security of our family life, when we got our first job we lost the freedom of youth, when we got married we lost the joy of many options, and when we grow old we lose our good looks, our old friends and our fame.”


Of course, the losses still go on….”When we became weak or ill, we lost our physical independence, and when we die we lose it all!”

            (from Nouwen’s With Burning Hearts:  A Meditation on the Eucharistic Life, p. 24)


There’s also the violence, the betrayals, the accidents, political upheavals, losses far away in the newspaper, the television and the computer screen.


We lose our dreams.

We lose our spirit.

and sometimes we lose our faith.


No wonder we might not want to look inside our selves during Lent.


The $10,000 question about losses is this:  What do we do with our losses?


Do we hide them?  Do we blame others for them?


To see how we might deal with our losses, let us look now look at the Parable of the Prodigal Son.


We know that the younger son left his father’s home with his part of the inheritance and lived his life as a non-stop party.  But then the money ran out.  He was hungry.  He was tired.  Tired of body.  Tired of soul.  His dreams of the world out there proved to be mistaken.


In the Parable, we do not know what led the younger son to leave.

I always imagine that since the mother is never mentioned is that she died, leaving the three men together.

Without the mother’s nurturing love for all three, rivalries and resentments formed.

Eventually something had to give…..and the younger son leaves.


Luke only gives us the younger son’s perspective in that time away.

What was life like back at the homestead?

Was the father given over to depression? Did he remain in bed for weeks on end, his face turned to the wall?

Was the elder son–now without his brother–overwhelmed with managing the property and caring for his elderly father?

Each day more and more anger built up in the elder son against his younger brother who, even though gone, was still very much with them.


Henri Nouwen says that when we experience loss, we have a choice.

We can choose to feel the pain of our loss–to mourn our loss—or we can choose to resent our loss.


I believe that the father mourned the loss of his son.

He shed tears over his son and grieved deeply.


The elder brother chose to resent the loss of his brother.

The elder brother became disillusioned, angry, bitter and increasingly resentful.

He mumbled to himself:  “Life has cheated me.  There is no future for me, nothing to hope for.  The only thing to do is to defend the little I have left, so that I won’t lose it all.”



But to choose to mourn our loss–to feel the grief–is to be given a gift.

A gift that turns to gratitude.

Because as we feel the pain of our own losses, our grieving hearts open our inner self to a world in which losses are suffered far beyond our own little world…..the world of prisoners, refugees, starving children and those with difficult illness, those living in constant fear.


Our mourning becomes larger than ourselves.

And in that larger mourning, we hear a voice that says “Blessed are those who mourn; they shall be comforted.”

Nouwen says that “Somewhere in the midst of our tears, a gift is hidden.  Somehow in the midst of our mourning, the first steps of the dance take place.

Somehow, the cries that well up from our losses belong to our songs of gratitude.”


When we name the loss, cry the loss–come to God with a contrite heart–we can then choose a life of forgiveness, peace and love.


Look at the father in our parable—he has mourned his younger son’s leaving and when he returns, he can run to him with open arms, rejoicing in gratitudee.


Look at the elder son—unable to be grateful for his brother’s return.


Every Sunday when we come to church, we are presented with the option to choose a life of resentment, fear and blame to say No to life or love OR to choose a life of forgiveness, peace and love.  A Yes to Life.


The word “Eucharist” means literally “act of thanksgiving.”

To celebrate the Eucharist and to live the Eucharist, life has everything to do with gratitude….

Gratitude is not the most obvious response to life, when we experience life as loss.

Still the great mystery we celebrate in the Eucharist and live in an Eucharistic life is precisely that through mourning our losses we come to know life as a gift.  


As Nouwen says, the beauty and preciousness of life is intimately linked with its fragility and mortality.


Our musical Simeon’s Well is about the losses endured by this community–decade after decade—but despite the losses, perhaps because of the losses, love has endured in this place..


There is the story of the gardener who said:  I cannot pour water on hard, dried-out soil and know that the seed buried within will receive the water.  It cannot.  It is only by crumbling the soil with my hands and pouring water on the soil again, the seed can receive the water and grow..


When our hearts are broken by loss, if we acknowledge that loss, and sometimes our responsibility for the loss, we come to God with a contrite heart.


We say Lord have mercy and bring our broken and open hearts to God to receive God’s grace and move out into the world in forgiveness, peace and love.







(c)2019 The Rev. Martha N. Macgill


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