It has been just about two years since I began my journey back to the Catholic Church after having been away for it and any other church for a long, long time. I have come a long way since then, but still have a long way to go.
Today’s Gospel reading is from Luke 15: 11 – 32 commonly referred to as the “Parable of the Prodigal Son”. You know the one, the man has two sons, the younger one takes his inheritance and heads off to the big, wide, world, and squanders it. He then returns to his father’s house and he is welcomed back and given a feast, clothes, etc. Of course this really ticks off the older brother because he stayed and worked for his father and never received even a little party for his friends.
Two things which stand out to me in this parable. is first, I was like the prodigal son when I left the Church, turned my back on it and walked away. When I realized that, like the youngest son, was living with the pigs, I headed back to my “Father’s” house and was welcomed with open arms.
The other thing is I also was like the older son. He lives in his father’s house and expects to be fed and taken care of, and when he sees his brother being lavished on he gets angry, basically saying “What’s in it for me?” While he does some work, my guess is he does only what is necessary to keep that roof over his head.
Look around you and see how many people fall into this category, the “What’s in it for me” group. They do as little as possible yet expect all the rewards as everyone else receives. When (if) you go to Sunday mass, count how many of the attendees receive communion, then next week when the priest hears confession, see how big the line is then. These will be a significant difference. Like the older son, we expect to receive the rewards, in this case the Eucharist, the body and blood of Jesus, without doing the work, going to confession and performing our penance.
We go to mass every week to be like the scribes and Pharisees who go only to be seen, and once we leave we forget all we have all about why we are there, what our duties as Christians are.
“Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. ” – Matthew 6: 1
It took me a while before I began attending mass regularly, just a little over a year from when I first began my journey back. This passage is why:
“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by men. ” – Matthew 6:5
Until I was ready to go to church for the right reasons, not just so I could be seen by man, but because I wanted to go and receive the Eucharist, to go because I wanted to go for me not for others.
Yes, I have come a long way, but I still have a long way to go, I am not where I need to be in my life. I still don’t always trust God like I should, I still get tempted like I used to, although thank God I haven’t yet succumbed, but I am at least back with my Father. What about you?