“Don’t you know son that I love you? And I don’t care where you’ve been, so please come home.”
These are the lyrics of a song by Dustin Kensrue — lead singer of one of my favorite bands, Thrice. The song is called “Please Come Home” — and it’s written from the perspective of the Father in the famous parable we just heard: The parable of the Prodigal Son.
These lyrics reveal the heart of the Father in a profound way: “My son… my daughter…Don’t you know that I love you? I don’t care where you have been. I don’t care what you’ve done. I don’t care how long you’ve been doing it. Just please… come home.”
You can hear the ache in the Father’s voice — all He wants is for this lost child to come back… To be safe under his roof again.
This probably hits really close to home for most of us: How many of our own family and friends have wandered off to a “distant country?” Maybe it seems hopeless, but all we want is for them to please… please one day come home.
I still stand here waiting with my eyes fixed on the road
And I fight back tears and I wonder if you’re ever coming home
Don’t you know son that I love you
And I don’t care where you’ve been, so please come home.
But here’s the thing….
That cry of the Father, “Please come home” can just as easily be directed to the OTHER brother in our parable today: The older brother, who… physically, anyways… never left home. Never wandered off. Never even stepped foot off his dad’s property!
When it comes to the older brother, Jesus’ words from elsewhere in the gospels take on flesh: “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”
How far the older brother’s heart is from home! And so… the Father calls out to him as well: “Please come home!”
Maybe that’s where we find ourselves today? We’re here at Church. We showed up. Perhaps we’ve never abandoned the faith.
But do we really want to be home? Do we want to stay in the Father’s House? Or, somewhere in our hearts, would we… rather be far away?
When it boils down to it, “sin” is whenever we refuse to stay at home with the Lord — whenever we resist being in the Father’s House.
And that can take many, many forms.
In our first reading from the book of Exodus, this refusal took the form of the Israelites making a Golden Calf — they refused to “stay home” with the God who delivered from slavery in Egypt! They “soon turned aside from the way the LORD pointed out to them” and fell into idolatry.
For the younger brother in our parable, the refusal to “stay home” was quite literal of course: He ran off to go waste all his father’s money on pleasure and self-indulgence… women and booze.
But for the older brother, the refusal to be at Home with the Father took on a much more subtle, invisible, and for that reason… much more sinister form. His own words tell us A LOT:
‘Look, all these years I served you and not once did I disobey your orders’ he says — ‘yet you never gave me even a young goat to feast on with my friends!
Think for a moment how much this reaction reveals:
The older brother was acting like a prisoner in his own home! He did all his chores and responsibilities around the house… not as a beloved son — but as if he was… a slave!
How he longed to be “free” like his younger brother… how he yearned to abandon the Father’s house and be far, far away himself! But he feels stuck… grounded…
Jesus’ words come to mind here: “The slave does not continue in the house forever… the son continues forever.”
Josef Ratzinger, aka Pope Benedict XVI, has this to add to our reflection:
“[The older brother’s] obedience made him inwardly bitter — he [had] no awareness of the grace of being at home, of the true freedom that he [enjoyed] as a son.”
What a sad existence that must be! To be so near to the source of all peace, security and joy — to TRULY BE A CHILD in the Father’s House — and yet only experience that truth as an oppressive burden!
We can hear the resentment in the older brother’s voice when we lashes out at his Father — “You never gave me a young goat to feast on!”
You never let me have what I REALLY WANTED!
What a dagger in the Father’s heart!
And yet… don’t we sort of do the same thing to God ourselves?
Ask yourself this: What is the ‘young goat’ that I’m frustrated God never lets me have? What “unfair” burdens do I secretly think God is placing on me?
Maybe some of these examples will convict us:
Why do I have to be Catholic at THIS time in history? It’s so hard — I have no support, no mentors, no guides. The culture certainly doesn’t help me. The Church seems so confused Herself. It’s so HARD to have faith. My kids are sitting ducks! Why can’t I have it easy like past generations did? You never give me a break, God… You never let me have a young goat to feast on!
Why do I have to set so many boundaries with my girlfriend, Lord? With my boyfriend? It’s impossible to be pure in this day and age. Why can’t we live together before marriage? We love each other! You’re being unreasonable! You never let me have a young goat to feast on!
Why do we have to work so hard at being open to life? At this Natural Family Planning thing? Why can’t we just ‘not care’ like everyone else? I’m afraid, and You never give me a young goat to feast on!
Why do I have to make time for prayer every day? Why do I have to always give something up on Fridays? Why do I need to go to Mass every single weekend? The homilies are bad. Other churches have better preaching!
All these Catholic obligations are so heavy… it’s unfair! Other people get to relax on Sunday, but I need to drag the whole family to church… You NEVER give me a young goat to feast on!
I’m sure you can think of many… many… more examples from your own personal experience. But I encourage you to take stock of all these little, interior grumblings.
Because even though we don’t like admitting it, they are evidence of the “older brother” still living in our hearts!
If that’s you in any way, then I encourage you: RENOUNCE that spirit in the Name of Jesus! Really — do it right now!
Because… thanks be to God…. as Saint Paul said in our second reading: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Of these I am the foremost.”
THANKS be to God! — Jesus came into the world to save both brothers… He took flesh and dwelt among us in order to call out to all of us:
“PLEASE, COME HOME!”
It’s time that we surrender all our grumbling, and cultivate a deep, true desire to be Home with God!
A great way to foster this desire is to meditate on the Psalms. The Psalms are overflowing with beautiful language about the house of the Lord — the holy dwelling place of God.
“I rejoiced when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” (Ps 122)
One thing I ask of the Lord; this I seek: To dwell in the Lord’s house all the days of my life, To gaze on the Lord’s beauty, to visit his temple.” (Ps 27)
“Blessed are those who dwell in your house! They never cease to praise you.” (Ps 84)
These gorgeous verses of Sacred Scripture stir up a deep desire to be at home with God. To truly belong to Him.
If this resonates with you — if you find that desire in yourself, then I urge you:
Please come home. I don’t care where you’ve been, or what you’ve done. Just please come home!
Come home, and stay home! There is nothing outside worth having. Trust me, it’s all pig slop compared to what God our Father offers us.
All you need is right here…
He gives you His own Son’s Body and Blood to feast on!
Hear His Voice instead, who says to YOU right now:
“You are here with me always!
Everything I have is yours.”
This… is your home.