Embracing the prodigal son

| Alyssa Bormes | December 31, 2015 | 0 Comments

It seems fair to say that I was a recalcitrant teen and 20-something, but the good Lord reached into those turbulent years planting moments of grace.

Decades ago, Mass was just something to sleep through. However, when visiting my parents, I would attend Mass. Mom and Dad had rules; everyone went to Mass on Sunday.

My attitude was pious, but my brain was focused on brunch. Yet, now and then, I found myself attentive to Mass.

It was one of those Sundays when the Gospel was Jesus’ story of the prodigal son. In what was the supposed “infinite wisdom” of my teenage years, I thought the parable was just taking up space in Bible. Some years earlier, however, Father Robert Vinslauski, a priest of the Diocese of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, gave a homily on it that was quite beautiful and entirely surprised my pride. This time, it was a young priest, Father Mark Lichter, also of the Sioux Falls diocese. I thought he would give the same homily, but the surprise was that he preached from a different vantage point.

The first homily by Father Vinslauski years ago spoke of the prodigal son waiting for the other shoe to drop. Sure his father had come out to meet him, welcoming him home, but the son may have thought it was only to later embarrass him in front of the family. When his father threw a feast, the son may have wondered if he would denounce him in front of a crowd. However, the son only met mercy, and it must have been shocking to become accustomed to that depth of forgiveness.

Years after that, Father Lichter preached about the different stages of our lives. Often in our early teens, we identify with the son who stays home, wondering how our parents can forgive our own prodigal siblings. Later, in our late teens and twenties, when some of us become wayward, we identify with the son who left, hoping that our parents will welcome us home. However, maturity means becoming the father, being able to forgive and love.

Even though the two beautiful seeds of those homilies had been sown, they landed on rocky soil. It was a decade and a half before they found a crack in my stone heart and took root. Then on a regular old Saturday during Lent of 2002, there was one more seed planted, and all three flowered at once. On that day, the Gospel was again the prodigal son, and Father Christopher Beaudet spoke about how, with God’s mercy, we can be far from our sins — as far as East is from West.

On that day, all three homilies came together. I was home in the Church, and God willing, would never leave again.

It is now Christmas of 2015, and I went to Mass in my hometown of Aberdeen, where Father Lichter is again assigned. All the priests received a letter of thanks some time ago. After Mass, Father and I spoke about the letter. Twenty-odd years have passed since hearing that homily, but the grace and mercy are as fragrant as ever.

Bormes, a member of Holy Family in St. Louis Park, is the author of the book “The Catechism of Hockey.”

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Category: Year of Mercy