Sweet Home Mountainburg!

On Tuesday morning, I drove my friend, Marian, to her home in Mountainburg, AR. As we approached this little town, 15 miles west of Alma, Marian had a glow on her face. I was amused, watching her pure joy in getting back to her home town. I said, “Sweet Home Alabama…..and Mountainburg”. She looked at me with a smile and said, “You read my heart, Jos. Although I was happy staying with you and your family for a few weeks, I felt like it was time for me to sleep in my own bed, cook in my own kitchen, and be back home”. Marian wanted to be  totally  herself, and to fully relax. Marian wanted to be at home.

I believe we all want a place and people that we call home and family. Home is that place where we know we can be ourselves, without being scrutinized by anyone who is not part of our family. We know our father, mother, brothers and sisters love us no matter what might happen,  and no matter how we look or act . Love!  Yes, they love us, although sometimes they may not agree with all we say and do.

Home is a place where all failures of one’s life are overlooked for the reason of love. Love surpasses everything. When my brothers and sisters disagree with me about the way I am and the way I live, my father says, “It is still my home.  Let no one disregard my children.”   In my father’s house, it is he who makes the rules.

This is one of the best lessons in the story of the Prodigal Son ,from the Holy Scriptures. The unexpressed mystery of the love of the father, gently teaches a lesson to the older son. The lesson is about who is in charge when it comes to deciding on the sibling’s future. While the siblings might wrangle over tiny details of insignificant matters, the father is set to feast because of the return of his child home.

We are all siblings in the plan of Salvation. We all share the same heritage and history. We are all sojourners in this world. We are inhabitants of this world only for a period of time, as was true in the story of the Prodigal Son. For a while, he was forced to live in the field with the pigs. We also live in the pigsty when it comes to this world we live in, as compared to the heaven we have come from. We have to return home. No matter what we have turned out to be, at the end of the day, we will be admitted back into  the father’s house. There are no “left behinds”, and no “lost”.

But then, for political reasons, personal agendas, and sometimes even for spiritual rightness (or perhaps it is because of “human righteousness”),we seem to judge one another. In fact, we even say that those who are different from ourselves don’t belong in the house of the Father. In ages past, it was women of all origins. Then, of course, we turned against one another on the basis of color. Now that we are slowly growing out of those prejudices, humankind is seeking other scapegoats on whom the blame for our judgmental behavior can be placed. Groups we target may have orientation differences, varied civilizations, multiple ethnicities, or languages different from our own. We are even jealous of  someone’s status which we perceive to be above ours, or of our own status we  perceive to be above that of the other person. Some of us might still believe in the philosophy that the younger brother has to be wrong, in order for the older one to be right!

The wise ones realize that Christian life is the joy of living in the house of God that we can all call home. It is an internal awareness that we all share the same space, and that it belongs to the first and the last, the new and the old, the different and the same. Regardless of the arrogance and righteousness of the older brother, the Father admits the younger to the family. 
Celebration is an invitation to grow into the understanding of the love of the Father as being greater than the rivalry of the siblings. The canopy of the heavens that we are all under is bigger than the tiny tents we have built for ourselves. The heart of God is greater than the hearts of those who think they control the tents they live in.

If my brothers or sisters are not entitled to the love and riches of my Father, then I am not worthy of it, either. If my Father’s love is so small as not to include my brothers and sisters, then His love is the equivalent of human pettiness. If all, or even some, of mankind’s polarizing  rhetoric can undermine God’s merciful love and God’s kind heart, then His loving kindness is not genuine.  It is, rather, merely the human concoction of a theory for control and manipulation.

If the fatted calf was the feast for the Prodigal, then it is the fatted hearts God is seeking today.  Hearts made fat by being filled with love and forgiveness, acceptance and affirmation, are the attributes of Christ. When we read the story of the Good Shepherd, we read the story of the Father who does not hold out on His children. Even when the last one hides behind the bushes and thorns, or is lost between the rock and the hard place, Christ gets closer and closer to take them home! Sweet Home!


(C) Fr. Jos Tharakan | 2010

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