Well, I’m not quite recovered from my surgery earlier this week just yet, not enough to resume my regular blogging reflections about the writings of Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict. Meanwhile, like all authors, I am thoroughly jazzed, excited, pumped, over-the-moon—whatever cheesy adjective you want to use—about my new book Going Home. So I thought I would just include an excerpt from the first chapter as a ‘sneak peek,’ with (of course!) the nefarious intention of persuading you to buy the book for yourself, as a Christmas present for your loved ones, as a Year of Faith purchase for your study group, parishes… etc, etc, etc. We authors are a shameless lot. You can order it at www.justinpress.ca.
Here is the excerpt:
When he came to himself he said “Here I am dying of hunger! I will rise and go to my Father…” (Luke 15: 17-18).
Arise. Go. (First words of the Little Mandate of Madonna House)
We’re not home—that’s the first point. Let’s start there.
In other words, we are not where we should be. Where we want to be. We are… elsewhere.
There is a restlessness in every human heart, a lack of rest, a need to be… well what is it, really? What is it we need/want to be? Elsewhere? Different? Better? Something.
And it means something, this human restlessness, this need of ours. We are hard to satisfy, hard to please. Things are never quite what we want, as we like it, not for long. We are not contented; we are a race of malcontents.
There’s something we need that we don’t have, and we’re not there yet. So much of our life is driven by this sense of restlessness, isn’t it? Run here, run there, change this, change that, looking for… something.
And so, we have to go. We have to ‘arise and go’. We need to get to where we are supposed to be. We have to leave where we are. We’ve got to get… somewhere. Not sure where it is, but when we find it, it will be what we want. It will be our home.
We’ve got to get home. Oh, but what does that mean, then? Where is our home? Where could this place be that will satisfy this restlessness? What will ever content us hungry-hungry humans? To where, exactly, do we have to arise and go?
Is it Heaven? Where is that? Off on a cloud somewhere? But, really, you know, I don’t particularly want to live on a cloud… Is it a city with streets paved with gold and with crystal walls, with no sun or moon, ‘for the lamb of God is its light’ (Rev 21)? Well, that doesn’t sound especially practical or comfortable, nor (to be honest) does it sound like anything I would call ‘home’. There weren’t a lot of crystal walls where I grew up.
It is the cry of humanity: where is our home? Is it, in fact, heaven? Yes, but maybe there is a deeper heaven offered to us than what traditional or even Scriptural images can convey to us these days. Our home is not merely some far off realm of light. It’s certainly not a cloud. Home is not only, or even essentially, some eternal city filled with music and merriment, good food and friends. There is a more essential reality that is home for us. Heaven, yes, but more than heaven.
Home for us is the Father. This is home, this where we belong. This is our beginning and end and everything in between: the house of the Father. Heaven, yes, but the road to heaven leads us there and nowhere else, to the Father’s house. And the road to that house starts here. It is now that we are to arise and go to the Father…
The mercy of God—this is my subject, this my current spiritual journey. And the prodigal son will be my guide for the way. The parable is most often read as strictly a teaching about the mercy of God to sinners: a revelation of how much God loves sinners and welcomes them back when they repent. And of course this is a true reading of the story, along with its other main point, the invitation given to all ‘good’ people (symbolized by the older son) to join in that same welcome and love.
But there’s something even deeper going on here, in the very heart of all this mercy business. In the very heart of our sin and God’s forgiveness, all this messy business of falling down in the mud and getting back up, the son’s debauchery and degradation and painful repentance, the father’s welcome and the brother’s envy—in the very middle of all this familiar story comes the son’s luminous words, spoken at his absolute lowest point, as he wallows in the mud and mire of the pigs: “I will rise and go to my Father,” (v. 18).