“MUST WE GO HUNGRY FIRST?” (Lk 15:1-3, 11-32): 23 February 2008 (Saturday)

“MUST WE GO HUNGRY FIRST?”  (Lk 15:1-3, 11-32):  23 February 2008 (Saturday)

Today’s Readings

I hadn’t really paid much attention to British singer Robbie Williams until someone lent me a DVD of his Knebworth concert.  It was a great concert that featured some really profound and provocative songs.  At one point, he listened to the millions in the audience sing the words to his song “Feel.”  He looked around him self incredulously and broke down.

That song could have been the song of the Prodigal Son.  We all know the story:  A young, adventurous man left home to squander his father’s riches in a life of drinking and vice until he runs out of money.  As a result, he had to find work feeding the pigs.  He was so hungry that he was actually tempted to eat what he was feeding the pigs.

Standing there among the pigs, he must have realized how miserable his life has become, and for the first time since he left home, he felt a longing to return.  He really could have sung words of the Robbie Williams song:

Come on hold my hand,
I wanna contact the living.
Not sure I understand,
This role I’ve been given.

I sit and talk to God
And he just laughs at my plans,
My head speaks a language
I don’t understand.

I just wanna feel real love,
Feel the home that I live in.
’cause I got too much life,
Running through my veins,
Going to waste.

Was that the precise point when the Prodigal Son experienced his conversion as he stood hungry among the pigs?

My question today is: “Must we go hungry first before we’ll get converted?”

I think Prodigal Son’s conversion started with his hunger, when it dawned on him that his own father’s slaves back home were in a better situation than he.   His conversion really began among the pigs, when he stood there in their midst, his stomach rumbling and making him want to go home.  His hunger was the beginning of conversion.

But it was only the beginning; his conversion was completed only much later.   We can imagine him rehearsing a speech that he had prepared as he made his way home.  Of course we all know what his father did.  The moment his father saw him from the distance, the old man ran down to meet his returning son.  And when he began to speak, his father interrupted his speech, and summoned the slaves to put the best robe on his long-lost son, to put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet, and ordered that the fatted calf be killed for a celebration.

I think the son’s conversion was completed only at this point when he was surprised and overwhelmed by his father’s unconditional love.  It must have been only at this point that his hunger, the original reason for his homecoming, turned to genuine sorrow for what he had done and for having hurt his father, and a real determination not to repeat his offense.  He would probably never ever again abandon his father—not because for fear of hunger, but for love of his father.

I think we can learn a couple of things about conversion from this parable.  First, conversion begins with hunger.  For as long as we don’t feel that hunger deep down ourselves, for as long as we don’t experience our greatest need, our deepest desire—which is God—then we will never even think of going home to him.  The idea will never even occur to us.

Secondly, conversion may begin with hunger, and it may make us return home, but only love will keep us home.  Hunger may make us go back home, but as in the case of the Prodigal Son, this hunger, this need for God, will not be enough.  Only when we experience God’s overwhelming and unconditional love will we have true and complete conversion.  Only when we realize how much God loves us, and how much we don’t deserve this love will we make a serious commitment to return his love by never again abandoning him and leaving him behind.

If this Lent, for one reason or another, we have strayed in one or two areas of our lives, and we have fallen away or have lost the way, it is time to think about going back.

Here’s a Quick Question for you:  “How has conversion happened to you in the past?  Did it also begin with hunger?”  Think about it, and share a thought, a feeling, or a question.

Note:  I’ve uploaded Robbie Williams’ live performance of “Feel” in Knebworth back in 2003. And here are the lyrics to his song.  It’s one of his best songs.

FEEL

Come on hold my hand,
I wanna contact the living.
Not sure I understand,
This role I’ve been given.

I sit and talk to god
And he just laughs at my plans,
My head speaks a language, I don’t understand.

(chorus)
I just wanna feel real love,
Feel the home that I live in.
’cause I got too much life,
Running through my veins, going to waste.

I don’t wanna die,
But I ain’t keen on living either.
Before I fall in love,
I’m preparing to leave her.
I scare myself to death,
That’s why I keep on running.
Before I’ve arrived, I can see myself coming.

(chorus)
I just wanna feel real love,
Feel the home that I live in.
’cause I got too much life,
Running through my veins, going to waste.

And I need to feel, real love
And a life ever after.
I cannot get enough.

(instrumental)

(chorus)
I just wanna feel real love,
Feel the home that I live in,
I got too much love,
Running through my veins, going to waste.

I just wanna feel real love,
In a life ever after
There’s a hole in my soul,
You can see it in my face, it’s a real big place.

(instrumental)

Come and hold my hand,
I wanna contact the living,
Not sure I understand,
This role I’ve been given

Not sure I understand.
Not sure I understand.

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