Time to Turn Inward

For 27 March 2022, Fourth Sunday of Lent, based on Luke 15:1–3, 11–32

Our gospel passage for this 4th Sunday of Lent, midway from Ash Wednesday to Easter, includes the following verses from chapter 15 of the Holy Gospel according to St. Luke:

Coming to his senses, the younger son thought:
I shall get up and go to my father and I shall say to him,
“Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.
I no longer deserve to be called your son;
treat me as you would treat one of your hired workers.”

But his father ordered his servants,
“Let us celebrate with a feast,
because this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again;
he was lost, and has been found.”

Between 1951 and 1960, Salvador Dali painted 100 watercolors, one for each canto of Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy. This Sunday, you might find it worthwhile to do a Google image search for “Salvador Dali Purgatorio Canto 1.”

In this watercolor, a young man is seated on the ground. Our nude penitent looks down introspectively into three wooden drawers pulled out from his torso at chakra levels 1, 2, and 3—from his root chakra and his relationship to his tribe, up to his sacral chakra and his ties to other people, and then to his solar plexus chakra and his connection to himself.

Two additional drawers open at the heart level to invite our silent penitent to even more ethereal spiritual insight and communion. Perhaps this is why Dali’s young man has the suggestion of wings.

A few years back, at a Lenten day of prayer with the Catholic Community at Potosi Correctional Center in Missouri, we listened to Rodney Crowell’s country song, “Time to Go Inward.”

It’s time to go inward, take a look at myself/ Time to make the most of the time that I’ve got left/ Prison bars imagined are no less solid steel

. . . would you believe that I’m afraid/ To stare down the barrel of the choices that I’ve made. . . /I don’t know if I can do it after all that I’ve become. . .

It’s time to go inward, man I hope I have the nerve/ To take an inventory of the causes that I serve. . ./It’s time to go inward, time to be still/ If I don’t do it now I don’t believe I ever will. . .

Time to go inward, time to get a grip/ Time to put an end to one long bad acid trip/I’m all out of excuses now/ For the way I’ve let my choices take a toll

Jesus and Buddha and Krishna and Minnie Pearl knew/ To do unto others the things you want done unto you. . .

Both the wastrel son of today’s scripture and the prisoner in Rodney Crowell’s song sound a lot like Dante Alighieri in the opening verses of Canto 1 of the Purgatorio:

For better waters now, the little bark
Of my indwelling power raises its sails
And leaves behind that sea so cruel and dark
Now shall I sing that second kingdom given
the soul of man wherein to purge its guilt
and to grow worthy to ascent to Heaven.

Scripture passage from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright 1989, 1993, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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About Gregory Heille, O.P.

Gregory Heille, O.P., serves as Professor of Preaching and Evangelization and director of the Doctor of Ministry in Preaching at Aquinas Institute of Theology in St. Louis, Missouri. He is a friar of the Province of St. Albert the Great USA and has a particular interest in racial equity education.