Readings, Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)

It is said that when the white man for the first time entered the deep jungle of central-Africa some centuries ago, the native people who carried all the equipment used to stand still in the evening. Not for 2 or 5 minutes, but for more than one hour. The white man wondered about this behaviour, and when asking, he got a stunning answer: “We have walked so fast and so far. We’re waiting for our soul to catch up with us.”

The question of catching up with our selves is a central theme also in the story of the prodigal son. We might ask ourselves, what does this story tell us in meeting with our own lives.

greenThe prodigal son went in the opposite way of catching up with himself. He denied his family bonds, his home, his history and in the end himself. Why? What’s his story? Because, dear brothers and sisters, we’ve all got a history, our history, meaning: We all have hidden reasons for behaving in certain ways, reason that is not written anywhere, and that may be hidden deep within ourselves, -so deep that we may not even know ourselves why we behave as we do.

Why did the son find it so impossible to stay at home? This is not mentioned in the text, and this is not necessary either. The story of the prodigal son is not primarily a study of psychological behaviour and mental drives. It is the story of the soul itself. It is the story of how God interact with us, and how we may respond.

The son leaves his home with his heritage, and he is eventually lost. He’s got nothing left, and finally, he comes to a breaking point. Is it a conversion? Not really. In the text we read: “Then he came to his senses”. Where were he before that? He had been away from his true self. He had lost his direction. In French they say “Le nord perdu” – the lost north, meaning: Without a fixed point, without a compass pointing towards north, we cannot orient ourselves at all.

It is not only the prodigal son who was lost. The Christian history is full of people who have reached this point in life, where they finally have come to their senses. One is Augustin, who later became one of the great Church fathers and a source of renewal for all Christians. In his book Confessiones, he looks back on his life, and with pain and gratefulness, he honestly confess (and excuse me for quoting the long version, but I really think these lines deserves it):

Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would not have been at all. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace.

Augustin came to his senses, and at the same time, he discovered God’s love. He came to his senses, and the world was renewed. He came to his senses, and thereby he became his true self.

What does the Gospel tells us then? It tells us that when we cut of the contact with our closest ones, when we brakes with our history and finally with God, we close of to ourselves. But God never brakes with us. He remains close, like a rejected friend whose love is too great to abandon the friendship. God’s love remains active, always searching for a way to reach the hearts of each of us.

Dear friends. This is why we are here. We are here to catch up. To meet God, and to meet our inner self. We’re here to let God’s love fill us, to let us be guided by his caring wisdom. He uses a very gentle language, speaking to us from inside. We may forget. We may fall. But by the mercy of God, we come to our senses, giving us firm ground under our feet, and a way to walk. Let us then, today, pray for all who wander, all who stray from themselves and from God, knowing that God is there, impatiently waiting for us in his great patience.

And that’s worth a joyful “Hallelujah”, isn’t it?