Through the Cornerstone Retreat
projects that I’ve been involved in – a very important
part of my life, I’d like to add – I’ve met a lot of men
who relate the Prodigal Son story to their personal
relationship with God.
Some of them have stories that
rival the biblical one, but each of them sees himself in
the hungry son, who squandered his inheritance
and comes home wasted by his debauchery, unhappy and
broke. In coming home he will receive all he had
hungered for in the first place: happiness,
satisfaction, and fulfillment, i.e., a loving
relationship with his Father.
God planted this hunger in each of
us. Many of us almost completely destroy ourselves
looking to the glitter of the world for nourishment. We
forget, or maybe we never quite understood, what Pope
Benedict XVI describes in his first encyclical, that
“God is Love.” While the encyclical talks specifically
to world peace, world peace is but one facet of the fact
that God is Love. Furthermore, Jesus specifically
taught us that the most important thing we can do, is to
Love. (Matthew 22:34-40)
We instinctively knew the
importance of love when we were at our youngest; our
mother’s love was all we wanted. It not only nourishes
us, but we found comfort and protection there; in her
love we knew real happiness. As we matured, and maybe,
in some cases, because of a mother’s behavior, we looked
to the material world for comfort, protection, as well
as for the fulfillment we as adults need. Oh yes, and
Mark Neilsen wrote an interesting
comment on what Zebeedee, father of James and John, said
to Jesus Matthew 20:21-22. Believing that Jesus
was preparing to sit on an earthly throne, he asked,
“Command that these two sons of mine sit, one at your
right and the other at your left, in your kingdom.”
Jesus’ reply was, “You do not know what you are
In the Living Faith,
Daily Catholic Devotion booklet’s devotion for July
25, 2006, Neilsen’s four paragraphs show, in my mind, a
twist on the Prodigal Son story.
When the first shoe dropped, Jesus’
arrest, James and John both ran, turning their backs on
Jesus. Ultimately, however, as Mr. Neilsen puts it,
“…James and John were transformed by their Lord into
remarkable men of courage and conviction.” One could
make the case that these prodigal sons left Home because
the situation as they saw it, offered no happiness,
satisfaction or fulfillment.
How many of us have stories that
show a man, still far from Home, having his heart
transformed by the Lord, and thereby making the journey
back to our Father that much easier.
And who can blame us for looking to
the world for happiness and fulfillment; God gives us so
many gifts and pleasurable experiences in the world: the
magnificent sunset; the beautiful flower, the rolling
ocean, the mighty mountains – they take your breath away
and fill you with excitement… and such wonders are
everywhere. One need only look. But we should realize
that it is not through the material things of the world
that we will find true love, fulfillment, peace or
happiness, but it is in God. And because of God’s
universal love for each of us, we will find these things
when we live a life loving and serving one another.
The hints to this truth are all
around us. The power in the smile of your child whose
little hand is wrapped around your pinky, far out weighs
all the oceans and mountains and sunsets put together.
The feeling that floods your heart after you have helped
a stranger lasts far longer than the memory of all the
flowers you’ve ever seen.
Ultimately, we are all prodigal
sons and daughters. We spend our lives searching for
happiness. Today it is a certain car, or a new house.
Tomorrow it’s a pair of shoes. It can be anything from
wanderlust to a search for the best hot dog. But each
time we achieve or gain the item of our latest quest, we
find the satisfaction is short lived, and happiness is
fleeting. True fulfillment escapes us; so we search
Maybe the time we spend searching
and sinning is necessary in order to fully comprehend
the truth. Man’s compulsion to search for everything
that man searches for, is really a search for God; man’s
longing for all the things man longs for, is simply a
longing for God.
Your compulsion to search for
happiness, all of your longings and desires are in
response to God’s constant call for your love. He
created you to love Him, and for Him to love and take
care of you. One might say that the gift of a loving,
personal relationship with God is the achievement of
what Adam and Eve lost.
Yes God is love. And since we are
made in His image, we can find God in each other. When
we love our neighbor, we are loving God and showing
God’s love to our neighbor.
We can feel God’s welcoming,
forgiving embrace each time we go Home to Him through
another one of His beloved.
Finally, at any time of our
choosing, our Father is right there and willing to
welcome us Home again.