Coming home

Some reflections on the Parable of the Prodigal Son and his brother from 'RevoLectionary' 

by Emily Murtagh

TECHNOLOGY has almost killed the art of getting lost. Almost all of us have a map of the whole world in minute detail sitting in our pocket. Our phones set our path to home and this passage is all about home, journeys away and how we find our way back.

Where is home for you? We travel more than ever, have seen more cities, met more people. We are always on the move, always learning, going, absorbing, it is the rhythm of our life, and it is hectic. Where is home through all those experiences? Wherever you go in the world, where is the place that you know has happy hormones coming through the floorboards, where you can rest, where you are known, loved, and safe? Where is the place your heart returns to easily, without the need to switch on your GPS?

The son in this passage takes his inheritance, leaves his Father’s house and goes in search of fulfilment. Henri Nouwen wrote,“leaving home is living as though I do not yet have a home and must look far and wide to find one,” and “leaving home is looking for unconditional love where it cannot be found.”

The son looks for it in all the usual things we use to escape from ourselves, that distract us from aligning ourselves with who we truly are; okay parties, average friendships, relationships that have no future.

The other son also has not made peace with himself and with the Father. He is lost, in his own back garden, resentment holding him back from knowing where he was and who he has always been.

The feature includes some excellent questions for contemplation and prayer. The book cited is by Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming.


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Luke 15: 11--32 NRSV

11 Then Jesus said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them. 13 A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. 14 When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. 16 He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. 17 But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! 18 I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you;19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.”’

20 So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. 21 Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; 24 for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.

25 “Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. 27 He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.’ 28 Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’ 31 Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’”

More from the Church of Ireland, Diocese of Dublin and Glendalough

Emily Murtagh

Emily is currently working part-time as a youth worker in Kilkenny, having just completed her Masters in Community and Youth Work. She is passionate about tag rugby, proper conversations, dancing, poetry, public transport as a lifestyle choice and seeing people and ideas come together.

The RevoLectionary is a blog of reflections, thoughts, stories and insights written by Irish young adults. It follows the Revised Common Lectionary. Our hope is that it will serve as a devotion for teenagers and other young adults, inspiration for those involved in teaching ministry and as a training ground and platform for emerging voices within the Irish church.

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