Micah 7:14-15, 18-20
Luke 15:1-3, 11-32
Did you ever leave home and not realize it? I did. Actually I had just returned home from the Novitiate. I left in the middle of the year questioning whether I had a vocation. Wanting to continue my involvement in my Church that had provided a secure and comfortable home for the first 18 years of my life, I joined the choir at my local parish.
I’ll never forget the first practice I attended. Well actually, I’ll never forget afterwards. After practice a number of people were talking about going out for pizza at a local shop and asked if I wanted to come along. I accepted and joined a group at Riggio’s Pizza, just down the street from the church. When it came time to order, I still wasn’t sure what I wanted and was searching the menu frantically so I’d be ready when the waitress came to me. This was really a new world to me, dining away from home with friends and actually choosing what I wanted to eat. Well it turned out my fellow choir members weren’t ordering food—they were ordering drinks. Now I was really confused. I had never even had a drink before let alone ordered one. The person next to me ordered a Manhattan. Hum? The only drinks I was familiar with were shots and beers. That’s what my father drank. I thought he drank too much and didn’t particularly like the smell of either, so without hesitating and not even wanting one, I ordered a Manhattan. I didn’t want to be different.
That began a trek that would take me away from home, my family, my church and myself. Ah, I didn’t physically leave these, but I sure did spiritually. Twenty years later, like the prodigal son in today’s reading, I came running back home, frightened and wondering if I’d ever be able to rejoin my family.
It’s now 32 years later, and I’m happy to report that because of the loving acceptance and even rejoicing of my family and church I’ve “returned to the fold”. Father in heaven, give me the vision and the courage to change when I find that like the prodigal son in today’s Gospel reading, I’ve lost my way.
Dan O’Donnell is a Passionist Partner and a longtime friend of the Passionists. He lives in Chicago.