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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Home but Just as Homeless

[After reading the parable of the Prodigal Son many times] Frankly, I never thought of myself as the elder son, but once Bart [a friend] confronted me with that possibility, countless ideas started running though my head. Beginning with the simple fact that I am, indeed, the eldest child in my own family, I came to see how I had lived a quite dutiful life. When I was six years old, I already wanted to become a priest and never changed my mind. I was born, baptized, confirmed and ordained in the same church and had always been obedient to my parents, my teachers, my bishops, and my God. I had never run away from home, never wasted my time and money on sensual pursuits, and had never gotten lost in “debauchery and drunkenness.” For my entire life I had been quite responsible, traditional and homebound. But, with all that, I may, in fact have been just as lost as the younger son. I suddenly saw myself in a completely new way. I saw my jealousy, my anger, my touchiness, doggedness and sullenness, and, most of all, my subtle self-righteousness. I saw how much of a complainer I was and how much of my thinking and feeling was ridden with resentment. For a time it became impossible to see how I could ever have thought of myself as the younger son. I was the elder son for sure, but just as lost as his younger brother, [just as homeless] even though I had stayed “home” all my life.

Excerpt from The Return of the Prodigal Son, Henri Nouwen, Image Books, Doubleday, New York, 1994.
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