I. The Departure
Thorns and thistles by sweat of brow
Are all my toil has reaped till now.
Tell me, Father: How can it be
That so much failure could please Thee?
Others better could sow Thine earth.
Have I not cost more than I’m worth?
Better if now I take my leave
Than disappoint and further grieve.
Baggage all packed, Thy countenance
I leave with my inheritance.
Foreign pleasures shall numb the pain
Of all my labor spent in vain.
Famine has starved my flesh and heart,
E’er since the day I did depart.
Empty promises I believed.
Have I been all this time deceived?
II. The Return
Conscience beckons: “To home return!”
There may I hope my bread to earn.
Heaven witnessed these sins of mine.
No more shall I feed with these swine.
“Father,” I’ll say, “with all I’ve done,
‘Tis too much to be called Thy son.
Working harder, I promise Thee,
A better servant I shall be.”
Catching sight of me from afar
With rags and self-inflicted scar,
Mercy from Thy Paternal heart
Clothes me and bids me ne’er to part.
For me who cut Thy wealth in half
Dost slaughter Thou the Fattened Calf?
Father, what I’ve become I hate.
Tell me, how canst Thou celebrate?
III. The Celebration
Dearest son, thou wast once with me,
As I worked with thee patiently,
Sowing the seed on every ground,
And in thy presence joy I found.
Trouble of heart cast thee in fear.
When thou didst leave, I waited here,
Looking for thee both far and wide
To have thee once more at My side.
Now thou art home, alive and well.
Once and for all, old lies dispel!
Nothing, no one hast thou to fear,
If thou remainest with Me here.
Father, suffer me not to stray.
My Daily Bread give me this day.
Better to sleep in Thy sure care
Than to keep restless watch elsewhere.
IV. The Invitation
What’s this I hear of wayward son?
Upon return, a feast begun?
My strained service I should have ceased,
So that I could enjoy a feast.
Laboring hard both day and night,
I slaved under Thy perfect sight.
Every single mistake of mine
To further toil did me confine.
Sowing for Me with tears and sweat,
Beloved son, do not regret.
Counted not I so much thy gains
As thine attempts and labor pains.
Brother of thine has now returned.
Enter the home where I have yearned
To have thee sit with us to dine
And know that all I have is thine.
-Fr. Timothy J. Draper
Featured Image: The Return of the Prodigal Son, by BARTOLOMÉ ESTEBAN MURILLO