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Friday, 4 March 2016

Reflection/Homily: Fourth (4th) Sunday of Lent Year C

Theme: Returning like the Prodigal Son

The gospel reading (Luke 15:1-3.11-32) presents us with a familiar story – the story of the prodigal son. This story describes the lives of a rich father and his two sons. The younger son came to the father and requested for his share of the family property and went away to squander his share in an unknown distant land. When he realized his miserable condition after spending all he had, he made haste to return home, at least to work as a servant in his father’s house. Contrary to popular expectation, his father joyfully welcomed him as his son and organized a great party in his honour. The elder brother on his return showed his jealousy and dissatisfaction over the warm reception given to his brother and refused to be part of the joy.

Today’s parable told by Jesus was an attempt to explain to the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law the inexhaustibly generous, forgiving and loving nature of God. This was because they grumbled over Jesus’ association with the publicans and sinners   who were coming to listen to Jesus. The chief protagonist in this parable is not even the prodigal son but the father. However, today, we shall reflect on the personalities of the three characters and draw some lessons from their lives.

The prodigal son is a symbol of the lost humanity. He was eager to ask for some goods he would later abuse. Nobody knows whether he had the initial intention to squander those goods. He is represented in those who ask God for a lot of favours, blessings and gifts but end up using them wrongly. A lot of people are gifted with rare intelligence but instead of using it for good, they use it to perpetrate criminal activities. A sincere look into our lives will reveal this character of the prodigal son in us. Some of us use our wealth and positions to victimize the poor and the weak, others are arrogant on account of their achievements which are only gifts from God. Some use their beautiful bodies for immorality and hence destroy the temple of God in them.

From the prodigal son, we can learn that it is never too late to come back to God. The assurance we have to get from him is that we can hardly do much on our own without God in our lives. Perhaps, he may not have suffered the way he did if he was in constant communion with the Father who would have directed him on how to invest the share he had received. No matter how much spiritual and temporal goods we think we possess, we should learn to use them under God’s direction. The moment we fail in doing this, we miss the mark and only a return to God will save us. Since as sinners we have squandered and abused God’s graces, we have to return to Him especially during this period of lent.

The elder son is represented in those who on account of their efforts to do the will of God consider themselves as the only ones to be saved. They wonder why good things happen to bad people. They wonder why evil men tend to succeed in life and why God will forgive a repentant sinner at the moment of his death. In sincerity, we can also find the traits of the elder son in us. But we have to understand God as a loving father not just for those who obey Him but also for those who disobey Him. Jesus makes it clear that he came not for the righteous but for sinners (cf. Luke 5:32) and that there is great joy in heaven over one sinner who repents (cf. Luke 15:10).

In the loving father, we see the image of God who is always generous with His blessings, forgiving to those who offend Him and loving to all. He does not desire the death of a sinner but wants him/her to repent (cf. Ezekiel 18:32). This loving Father is seen in several places. He is seen in the priest waiting for us at the confessional to confess our sins and be reconciled to God. He is also seen in those we have offended who are patiently waiting to receive our apologies with joy. He is also seen in the Church waiting for us to be reconciled with her and return to the sacraments. The father does not only challenge us to ask for forgiveness but to grant forgiveness as well.

Therefore beloved friends, this season of lent is a special season for forgiveness and reconciliation with those we have offended and those who have offended us. As the second reading (2 Cor. 5:17-21) urges us, we have to embrace reconciliation, this time with God, the Church and our neighbour. We have all strayed like the prodigal son and need to return to God. We have abused privileges and gifts and need to reconcile with those who granted them. We need to ask God to remove our shame and grant us reconciliation as he did to the Israelites in the first reading (Joshua 5:9a. 10-12). It is only then that we can reap the fruits of the land as the Israelites did and join the psalmist to say “Taste and see that the Lord is good”. God loves you.

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