PRAYER: The Prodigal Father by M. Basil Pennington

The Prodigal Father by M. Basil Pennington

From An Invitation to Centering Prayer

As Jesus spoke a very mixed crowd gathered around.  On the fringes were the big shots, the Pharisees who had all the answers, the scribes who knew the law, and the priests, the holy ones.  They looked down on the motley crew pressing in to hear Jesus – a sinful crowd that did not know the law.

What was more painful to Jesus was the fact that many of the poor little ones who were listening to him readily believed that they were indeed the sinful ones.  They knew their sins too well.  They longed to hear words that would bring them peace.

Jesus told them then this story.

A rich man had two sons.  The older was a very righteous lad, painfully faithful to his duties.  He knew he was the firstborn son and heir and took good care of his future inheritance.  The younger had other interests in life.  He wanted to live to the full.

He asked his good father for whatever money might be coming to him so that he could get on with life.  Poor, foolish lad.  He chased the pleasures of the moment.  A false self-image had him in its grips.  He let others play up to him and live off him.  Eventually they went away and left him an unhappy pauper.  Ill prepared for life, he could only get the most menial and humiliating jobs.

Finally he came to himself.  Deep down he knew his true dignity, his true worth, as the son of his good father.  He had forfeited every claim to that dignity.  But at least he could throw himself on that good father’s mercy – and get a better shake than he was getting out on his own.

So home he headed.

The good father’s love had never faltered.  Nor had the keen eye of love dimmed.  From afar he spied his son, and despite all his age and dignity he ran out to meet the poor little tramp to welcome him home with great love and joy.  He had no time for the poor lad’s sad tale, at least not now in this moment of newfound joy.  There was time only for love and joy and celebration.  The past was to be fully forgotten.  His son was home – that is all he wanted.

Deep down, I guess all of us question our worthiness.  No matter what has been our track record – whether we have some terrible mistakes on our record or just the miserable little collection of human mess-ups that is the common lot of every child of God – we question whether it could really be true: that God loves me, dwells in me, really wants to be my friend, really wants me to be an intimate friend.

That’s why Jesus told this story.  We are all, in one way or another, prodigals.  But God is even more prodigal in a generous forgiving love for us.  We have gone off, one way or another.  But God has stayed at home – in us – waiting for us to return.

It is time to return home.

The way is simple.

Very simple.  We like to do things that are really hard.  Then we can pat ourselves on the back for having accomplished them.  (But that’s just the false self-image bragging again.)

But Jesus has said: “Unless you become as a little one, you cannot enter the kingdom.”

The Kingdom of God is within.

Come in.  Come home.  The kingdom is our home.  We are the children of the king.

Within we find love.  Within we find peace.

Within we find our true self, that beautiful person whom God loves so much.

Come home to yourself.  Come home to your God.

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