“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death (Luke 15:16)!”
A very profound thing has happened in Jesus’ description of the younger brother (the Prodigal Son). While the translation used above (New International Version) says that he ‘came to his senses,’ the literal translation of the Greek phrase is, ‘he came to himself.’ What would it mean to say that “he came to himself”? Only that in some way he was apart from himself, he was separate from his true self, he was divided and splintered. We have already seen that the younger son squandered his wealth in wild living, words that indicate a scattered, incoherent and directionless movement, not unlike a river that has overflowed its banks. But now, following his experience of extreme hunger, the younger son has come to himself: All of the directions of his squandered life are pulling back together into one singular life. His splintered life is giving way to singleness, simplicity.
We might say that this verse describes the moment of the younger son’s turning, the beginning of his repentance. Repentance always includes a turning from our splintered selves to simplicity, from an unbridled many-ness to a singleness of mind and love. This is why Jesus said, ‘Blessed are the pure in heart.’ We are using “purity of heart” and “simplicity” in the same way to mean a hunger for just one thing: that the perfect and beautiful and loving will of God be done on earth as it is in heaven. What great joy there is when our unbridled many-ness becomes the singular willingness of the disciple to love God’s will and to do God’s will with all of one’s heart, soul, mind and strength.