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8Jan, 2013

We are crowd-sourcing a new direction in youth ministry. Start here and play along. Previous post: In Stinky Shambles

cover.pngAre the thoughts listed above what the Prodigal Son felt as he made his way home? The Scriptures offer little insight into the possible thoughts within his head, relaying the misery of his thoughts and state of mind. His travels had taken him somewhere in between memories of confusion, and regrets about what lie in his immediate future.

The Prodigal Son is very representative of spiritual homelessness, and his actions can guide us toward finding the ways to respond to it, and let everyone know that they are welcomed home in the one family that matters—Jesus’ family. Jesus offers this “riches to rags” parable of redemption to show that God’s extravagant mercy will always win out over our own extravagant wastefulness. This is a journey that many people have taken over the centuries, and it is one to likely continue in the future. Why is it that so many of us want to seek something that they cannot fully describe or imagine? It may be that what they seek is different for every individual — it’s a sense of home, and belonging through their perspective.

I began to explore the concept of spiritual homelessness by a rather happy circumstance. A co-worker of mine, Kristin, was working into the evening preparing for a worship service connected with our annual day of pilgrimage. This day is meant for youth and young adults to take a pilgrimage through the streets of Baltimore. The pilgrimage in Baltimore is amazing and inspirational both, taking a thousand young people through religiously historic Baltimore in anticipation of the commemoration of Holy Week and Easter.

I remained behind with Kristin so I could accompany her through the darkened city sidewalks of Baltimore to the parking garage when she was done. She was having some problems, struggling with a combination of writers’ block and her trademark perfectionism, all while attempting to draft some Prayers of the Faithful, which are petition prayers. She wanted them to reflect the young people’s experiences along their journey, including any encounters with the homeless they may have along the way.

Kristin was talking aloud. “For those who are homeless, especially those young people who have been abandoned or are runaway, we pray…” Then she’d throw her hands up, thinking the words inadequate and not good enough. I watched her as she grumbled, claiming that the words just didn’t have the right je ne sais quoi. I’ll admit, I was growing a bit impatient, and eventually asked what was wrong with it. Kristin told me her concerns, and together we worked on modifying it.

Kristin read the next draft out loud. “For those who are homeless, may they experience a warm welcome and hospitality throughout our community, we pray…” I liked it very much, and Kristin claimed it was getting closer but it was still missing the right Iambic pentameter.

In the end, the winner was: “For those who are homeless, either physically or spiritually, may they experience a warm welcome and hospitality throughout our community, we pray…” And that was a wrap, and we made our way home. The draft was submitted to our worship leader for the Mass, and Kirstin was very glad to see it returned with approval and praise in equal measure. His note commented on how beautifully written the petitions were.

When the Mass took place my son was recruited to be the reader of the petitions, and he did a lovely job of it. It was what happened after the Mass that really got me thinking though. My son approached Kristin and I, looked at us both briefly, and decided to ask Kristin what was on his mind. I guess he thought she was clearly smarter than his old man. The question was insightful, and definitely fit with the tone of the day. He asked, “Just what is Spiritual Homelessness anyway?” A very relevant question, and one that is best demonstrated by an introspective look into one’s quality of life.

 For Discussion: On the streets on which we journey, are we able to sometimes ignore the homeless? How?  Please comment below with your critique clarifications, and responses.

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