My parish was so fortunate Sunday to have have our Bishop, George Murry, with us to celebrate Mass. Bishop Murry's Homily on the Prodigal Son had a tidbit that I've been thinking about since the second it hit my ears.
the parable of the Prodigal Son: a young man takes his inheritance and squanders it in the world. The Bishop talked about (and I'm of course paraphrasing here) how the audacious young man looked at his father's riches selfishly, and decided for himself what he thought was important--his share of the property. He wanted what suited his worldly desires and left the rest behind. Bishop Murry also pointed out that the son decided to come home not out of love for his father, but to save himself from starving to death. Essentially, his coming home was motivated by the same selfishness that sent him off seeking the pleasures of the world.
His father running out to meet him with so much love took his breath away--he couldn't even finish his carefully rehearsed plea for forgiveness.
It made me think of my own conversion...technically, conversions is the far more accurate term. All my life I have identified myself as a Catholic; but there were many times over the years that I was clearly "of the world". It's that pesky condition of Original Sin: deciding for ourselves what is right and what is wrong based on what we want, like, desire, think, feel...and creating for ourselves a faith that suits our little delusions of godhood.
When I finally returned home for real--that is when I just accepted the fullness of the Truth for what it is--it was because I was starving to death. Not physically starving, you see, but there was this nagging emptiness that far too many people are unwilling to recognize or admit is there. It's why I believe so many people chase the external stimuli (the feel-good stuff) of religious practices both within Catholicism and in other faith traditions.
Like it or not, however, deciding for yourself what you think is right, wrong, valid or unimportant, will tear your soul right out of the hands of God and hook it up to a vacuum that will suck the life right out of it. Call it grace, call it my imagination, but in a moment of utter clarity I saw my soul's emaciated condition thanks to my seflishness, and it scared me right back to life.
Through my 20's and into my early 30's, I was as guilty as anyone of carrying around with me a big ol' serving spoon and plopping piles upon my tray the things I wanted to believe, and passing on those things that just didn't fit into what I thought faith in God was all about. This is the inheritance I want. That practice or tradition or doctrine or dogma is not for me. I can have faith my way. Even today, having long ago given up the nonsense of cafeteria-style Catholicism, I still once in a while have the audacity to think that I can reach for that spoon and tell God what I think is right and what is wrong. Honestly. Who do I ever think I am? This audacity is very short-lived, though, as I see those traps much more clearly than I ever have. It's then that I run with all my might back to my Father's house, fall to my knees and beg His forgiveness.