Sunday March 6, 2016
Pope Francis invites us in this Year of Mercy to explore God’s fidelity and love. What does Pope Francis mean by mercy? Today’s gospel (Luke 15:1-3, 11-32) shows us a human face of mercy. The story of the Prodigal Son is one of my favorite passages in Luke. So many of us find glimpses of our lives in one of the three major characters.
The young son is completely selfish. However, we can understand his quest to discover his life. He asks for his inheritance and runs away and spends all of his money on a lavish life of prostitutes, food and a short-lived carefree existence. When he is out of money, he wakes up and realizes his mistakes. So he goes back home penniless and becomes aware that his future is at stake not only because he already spent his inheritance but also he has compromised his father’s love.
The father in the story loves his son. He is waiting on the road for him to return. The father runs toward him and embraces him, kisses him and even better promises him a future. The father stands on the dusty road as mercy incarnate. He kills the fattened calf for a wonderful celebration.
Of course the older son is incredibly jealous. He has spent his entire life with his dad obeying all of the rules. He now really resents his brother and his father. His life may never be healed because of his jealousy and anger. The rules have brought him great resentment and he cannot experience his brother’s new life or his father’s generosity.
So what character do you identify with at this point in your life? Which character challenges you? Can you describe your life situations or stories in relationship to one of these characters?
In this Lenten season, I want us all to run toward to the mercy of God. In this story, I often image the father along the path in my heart because so many times in my life, I have squandered my gifts and talents and have not lived up to God’s faithfulness. That scene so speaks to my heart in my prayer. Mercy is a lived awareness that we are forgiven even when we are lost, even when we have spent our gifts on a crazy life of ego-centered and selfish ways. I want us to know that we deserve God’s fidelity and love. Each of us is the beloved of God. We already belong in God’s mercy.
Many of us I am sure identify with the older son. We have lived all the rules of the Church and think others should do the same. We have worked hard for what we have and believe other people should work hard. We tend to think that we are all self-reliant. Why should we give people a handout if they do not have a job? Why should I give people food or clothing or shelter if they are too lazy to find their own way in life? Why should people be cared for without putting out their best effort? We give to other people because so much is given to us. We help others because they do not have the emotional stability to help themselves or because sometimes people just need a break. This story tells us that everything we have comes from the father’s love. We can either be stingy or generous and that choice is our response to God’s mercy and generosity.
We can also identify the ways in which we squander our lives. God’s love and presence is free. We do not earn our salvation. So often we get stuck thinking that we earn God’s love by our good works and then become resentful that others are not pulling their weight. Not at all, salvation is free. God’s love is unconditional. This notion of unconditional love is very difficult for us to understand when we are used to working hard and earning an honest living. God’s love is not earned. God’s mercy is here for our broken, confused and sinful lives. When we are dead we come back to life in the Father’s compassion.
Today we welcome Matthew Hovde, CSC and Dennis Strach, CSC our two Holy Cross deacons who will be preaching today. Matt will give the homily at Holy Rosary Chapel and Our Lady of Perpetual Help. Dennis will preach at the 7:30 and 11:00am Masses at Sacred Heart. They were novices in Cascade a few years back and served our community on Sunday mornings. They are back for a pre-ordination retreat. Matt and Dennis will be ordained Holy Cross priests at the University of Notre Dame on Saturday April 2, 2016. Please welcome them and please pray for them as they approach their ordination to priesthood.
Some questions to consider this week from today’s gospel:
How do you experience God’s mercy for your actions or from your past life?
How do you experience resentment because of others gifts or talents or abilities or place in life?
How do you run toward others who are in physical or emotional need?
How do you define God’s mercy?
In the mercy and love of God,