(a reflection being a snippet of a homily of the same title in my sermon collection, For The Living Of These Days)
Home. That place, really, state of existence where, when one is free to be who one is and is to become, discovering who one will be.
Home. That state of being where, when one dwells secure in the presence of love and the assurance of acceptance.
Home. Sought by all at all times. Found, I pray, by some…
And sometimes one has to leave, run away from home to find it.
The Parable of the Prodigal (outrageously profligate, extravagantly wasteful) tells the tale of a son who says to his father, “Give me my inheritance.” Not a particularly outlandish request, assuming that there’s an inheritance to grant. Except that an inheritance is bestowed at the time of death. The son, asking for early distribution of his birthright, in effect, wishes his father was dead. A not so nice petition that is, at least, impolitic and impolite. At worst, crude and cruel.
The father, as prodigal (outrageously profligate, extravagantly wasteful) as his son, agrees. The son leaves home, journeys afar, squandering his inheritance in riotous living.
Jesus told this tale in response to religious authorities scandalized that he welcomed sinners – the profane, impure and immoral “other” – and to proclaim the purpose of his ministry: to seek and serve the lost, least, and last.
This story, a declaration of redemption, says, “Welcome home!”
Question. How does one find and come home?
It’s easy to read this story – particularly the elements of the son “coming to himself”, his senses (remembering what he had), his rehearsed confession, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and you” (defying your will), his word of contrition, “I am not worthy to be called your son” (you have a moral right to disown me), his abject petition, “Treat me like a servant” – as descriptive of a process of redemption that entails conformity to a rule of life, compliance to a code of conduct external to one’s self. Finding one’s way home, then, involves repentance – discerning, coming to know and deciding, choosing to submit to a will utterly other than one’s own.
First, acknowledging, with the Apostle Paul, that “now” in this life “we see in a mirror, dimly” (1 Corinthians 13.12). Speaking only for myself, I often do not, cannot see myself clearly. My self-knowledge always is incomplete…
Then searching and finding, encountering and conversing with my “inner other” – the parts of me strange, foreign to me, that I don’t understand, that, if I could, I’d disown…
Then naming and claiming them as essential elements of my identity and destiny, for often they point the way I am (and need) to go…
All toward my coming again to my senses, a fuller consciousness of who I really am.
This is how I understand the son “coming to himself.” Therefore, even before he went home, his first homecoming happened within his soul!
This “coming to my self” is a spiritual journey that can lead to the rediscovery that home – where I am free to be and become, where I am accepted and loved – is primarily not metaphysically external to me, but rather existentially within me. For when I do not, cannot accept and love my self, “the other” within me, then neither can I accept and love another or allow another to accept and love me.