The Parable of Desperado
Homily for the Fourth Sunday of Lent
Preached on March 9-10, 2013 at Saint Andrew Catholic Church, Harrodsburg KY and Saint Mary Catholic Church, Perryville KY
Readings: Joshua 5:9a, 10-12; Psalm 34:2-3, 4-5, 6-7; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21; Luke 15:1-3, 11-32
“Desperado, why don’t you come to your senses?
You’ve been out ridin’ fences for so long now.
Oh, you’re a hard one but I know that you got your reasons.
These things that are pleasin’ you can hurt you somehow.”
For most people, this 1973 slow rock song by the Eagles is about some lone ranger out riding fences in a southwestern ranch. But, a second look into its lyrics shows that, in a way, it is also about the prodigal son in the parable; it is an appeal to that young man who had fallen into desperate times to come to his senses.
Desperado had demanded his inheritance from his father and gambled all of it away to the queen of diamonds: “he squandered his [birthright] on a life of dissipation” (Lk. 15:13). He did not realize until it was too late that the things that were pleasing him had hurt him somehow. Some very fine things had been laid for his enjoyment at his father’s table yet he wanted the things that he could not get. He did not count on love, that “queen of hearts,” being the one thing that he could not live without. He just threw it all away.
“Don’t you draw the queen of diamonds, boy;
She’ll beat you if she’s able.
You know the queen of hearts is always your best bet.
Now, it seems to me, some fine things
have been laid upon your table.
But, you only want the ones that you can’t get.
“Desperado, oh, you ain’t gettin’ no younger.
Your pain and your hunger, they’re drivin’ you home.
And freedom, oh, freedom, well, that’s just some people talkin’.
Your prison is walkin’ through this world all alone.”
He finally had hit rock bottom. He found himself in such dire need that he longed to dine with the swine he was tending (cf. Lk. 15:14-16). He got the independence that he wanted, the freedom from being under his father’s thumb. But, he was beginning to understand that, as soon as he had walked away from his home, he had entered a prison of loneliness. He thought that he could make his own way in the world. He forgot that not having someone by his side was the surest way to get lost.
His pain and his hunger were now driving him home. He remembered the father to whom he had turned his back, the family whom he had foresworn. Coming to his senses, he thought that even his father’s hired hands have more than enough food to eat. Yet, there he was, dying from hunger (cf. Lk. 15:17).
“Don’t your feet get cold in the winter time?
The sky won’t snow and the sun won’t shine.
It’s hard to tell the night time from the day.
You’re losin’ all your highs and lows.
Ain’t it funny how the feelin’ goes away?”
They were all gone: the exhilaration that he once felt from his newfound independence, the titillation that he once enjoyed from the pleasures that he indulged in, the friends who had kept him company for as long as he was the one paying. He no longer had anything to look forward to. He had wasted his parent’s present to him and trashed his future. Nothing was bound to be different: his nights were as exhausting as his days. The sky not snowing or the sun not shining was not going to make any difference to his miserable existence.
Only one thing would: his father forgiving him.
Desperado had come to his senses: he had sinned against Heaven and against his father (cf. Lk. 15:18). He did not deserve forgiveness, much less be called his father’s son. But, he took a chance: he got up and went back to his father (Lk. 15:20). What he did not know was that his father had been waiting for his return all along. His father had been worried about him and had been keeping watch for him by the window. As soon as he opened that gate, his father ran to him, embraced him, kissed him, (cf. Lk. 15:20) and brought him back home.
After everything that he had done to his father, the son definitely did not deserve the warm welcome that he got. But, that is the mystery of mercy, the awesome message of reconciliation given in Christ (cf. 2 Cor. 5:19). So many desperados in this Church and out there in the world are just set on not having anyone, especially God, raining on the parades of their pride. They forget that the rainstorm is but a prelude to a rainbow, that the intensity of God’s tests is the measure of His immense trust even in the feeblest of souls, that the discipline of the Church is there to train one into a determined disciple of Christ. They instead settle for the slop of swine and ignore the Father’s invitation to a feast at His table.
Perhaps, that is why the Lord Jesus taught this parable: to remind everyone that there is a second chance in store even for the most prodigal of sons, even for the most desperate of desperados. All that the Lord asks of each sinner is to take that single step back to Him and He will run the rest of the way for that soul. In the mean time, He sends out this plea to every
“Desperado, why don’t you come to your senses?
Come down from your fences and open the gate.
It may be rainin’ but there’s a rainbow above you.
You better let somebody love you, (let somebody love you)
You better let somebody love you before it’s too late.”