#MyMassTakeaway for the 4th Sunday in Lent.
As a hungry teen in my mom’s kitchen, I would often sample the pantry.
“I don’t know what I’m hungry for.”
I’d eat a cookie, a handful of chips, a few crackers, a piece of chocolate. Nothing satisfied.
And then my mom would offer me something, “Can I make you an omelet?”
My mom makes the best omelets. Stuffed with veggie and cheese and cooked just right to perfect fluffiness and deliciousness.
The real food she offered me – nutritious, healthy, and yummy – always satisfied.
The Hungry Prodigal
The part of today’s Gospel that struck me was the hunger of the wayward son.
He sampled the way of the world and nothing satisfied. Gambling, prostitutes, spending additions, you name it. He tried it all and he was still hungry.
He ended up feeding pigs – a detail that drives home the uncleanliness of his habits. He wanted to eat the food the pigs ate. You cant’t sink any lower than that; pigs eat garbage!
He was starving.
His hunger represents the hunger we all have. The hunger for love. The hunger for good and wholesome food.
The hunger for God.
We long for the things that will satisfy. Junk food, sin, and cheap love will never be enough for us. No matter how much we consume, we will always want more.
We hunger for the infinite and unconditional love of God. That’s the only thing that will satisfy.
Searching for Something to Satisfy
In our family, we have this sort of tradition of running away.
Almost every one of my siblings has run away as a child. The funny thing is, we come from a great family!
Our parents were always supportive and loving.
They provided a stable, happy home.
It reminds me of the home the father in the parable of the Prodigal Son provided.
He gave his sons stability, love, and shelter, but still the wayward son up and left. He didn’t realize how good he had it. He thought that his dad was keeping him from living life and having fun.
It was only when he walked away that he was able to see his home for the amazing place it was. He had no idea how bad and empty the world out there was until he experienced it for himself.
He returned with an intense appreciation for the home he grew up in.
He came home ready to reciprocate the love his father had given him for so many years.
Notice that the other son, the one who never strayed, didn’t develop the same sense of appreciation and reciprocated love: “Not once have I disobeyed your commands,” he said to his dad.
He never strayed, but he stayed with a servile attitude rather than a loving heart.
The prodigal’s leaving helped him love deeper, in the end.
Eventually, they’ll come back
My own children are carrying on the family tradition of running away.
Sometimes, they don’t like the rules of the house. They want to eat cookies whenever they feel like it. They don’t want to do their chores or their homework.
So they pack their little backpacks and head out to the backyard.
“I’ll miss you!” I call after them as they go, “Come back when you’re ready.” Then I watch them through the kitchen window as they play and have their imaginary adventure of doing whatever they want.
I watch, and I wait.
I know they’ll eventually come back hungry, wondering what’s for lunch, and admitting, “I missed you.”
I know that their running away is part of the process of discovering what they’re hungry for and where to find it.
By experiencing that loneliness, they will appreciate how much they’re loved. By sampling the emptiness, they’ll discover where they will find their fulfillment.
I love these little prodigals.
I pray that no matter how far they stray, they always know they can come back.
I’ll be right here, waiting for them.
#MyMassTakeaway is a community building hashtag. I encourage you to use it to share your thoughts about the Mass, Eucharist, and readings every Sunday.
Check out these reflections, and head over to Instagram to join!
Here’s my takeaway (in shortened form) over on Instagram!
Amy shares her terror when her 2 year old goes prodigal for 5 minutes.
“I am also taken back by the glimpse I was given at the LOVE God has for us. When George was missing, I just kept calling his name over and over again. How does that hymn go? By name I have called you.”
Emily’s reflection on new beginnings is inspired by the Gospel and the splash of color created by cleaning out a dispenser nozzle.
“Forgiveness is letting go of the past so that we can move forward into the next new beginning.”
Kirby reminds us to act boldly. It’s something we need to do for the good of our parish and the entire Church.
“Acting boldly does not always mean being loud and aggressive. It means making a choice for yourself, committing to it’s follow through, and responding to how that changed the room.”
Ginny shares how toddler antics help drive the story of the Prodigal Son home.
“Thank God He’ll always welcome me home, especially when I bring my circus.”
Amy reflects on the older brother in today’s Gospel. We all can feel like him sometimes, can’t we?
“God showing love to one doesn’t mean it takes away from us.”
Meghan reflects on our different responses to God in the different seasons of our lives.
“No matter what season you are in, or how your Lent has been going thus far our Father is ready to rejoice in you and embrace you as you choose to grow closer to Him.”
Rebecca reminds us that God waits watchfully for us. He is always ready for our return home and will run out to meet us with open arms.
“No matter how far we think we’ve fallen away from our Father in heaven, He is watching and waiting to run to, embrace, and kiss us.”
Anni reminds us to turn to God for forgiveness with the faith of a little child.
“Have faith like a little child – don’t be afraid to reach out to God and emulate the prodigal son… to acknowledge your shortcomings – and sin – and to seek His mercy.”
The lovely MCCW page asks us to reflect on whether we’ve ever squandered our inheritance – and calls us to turn back to God’s open arms.
“As the father embraced his prodigal son, God waits to embrace you. He waits, arms outstretched, to throw a party for your return to Him.”
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