Dear Followers of Jesus,
Today, on this Fourth Sunday of Lent, we proclaim Luke 15: 1-3, 11-32 at Mass. This is one of my favorite stories during the Lenten season. Most of us are familiar with the story of the Prodigal Son. If we are not, the story bursts with love and forgiveness and is well worth our effort to enter into its mystery and grace.
There are three characters in the story, a father and his two sons. The younger son thinks he deserves the best and is aching to gain a new freedom apart from his father and brother. The amazing thing is that the father gives him his portion of the inheritance and lets him go. The young son squanders the money and grows weak, hungry and helpless. The son begins to wake up to the reality that his life was pretty darn good the way it was, so he goes back home. He admits to his father that he has really messed up.
We all understand sheer restlessness for such freedom. We desire our own voice, our own place in the world. Sometimes we get it and sometimes it eludes us. We struggle to get our way and we may become addicted to drugs, pride, violence or alcohol in our newfound freedom. We cling to self-sufficiency, self-righteousness and anger just to get our way. No one can tell me what to do. We want to make our presence felt. We definitely know the life of the young son. Some of us live it every day.
The loving father stands near the road waiting for his son. The father runs toward his beloved. He runs, which was unheard of for a Jewish elder. He runs to greet him and offer him forgiveness. He offers forgiveness and wants to have a banquet in the son’s honor. The father gives his love away easily.
We also know the father’s love and forgiveness. Our children may very well be lost and we wait for their arrival home to self and to the family. The father is an image of God and his love in the world, waiting to welcome all of us who are lost and forgotten and unhappy.
The second son is so jealous of his brother. He has kept all the rules and has always done what the father expected. He has seen his life in lockstep to the father. Our lives may very well fit in the category of the second son. We are faithful, keeping all the rules of the Church, never straying, never challenging. Yet, we find our lives so full of regret and hatred, we can hardly stand our ground and find peace in our daily lives.
This gospel becomes an invitation to explore forgiveness and mercy within our lives. We find our lives in all three characters if we take them to heart. Pray with each of the three characters and see in this Lent where you can identify. We thank God for loving mercy and tenderness, no matter where we fit into our relationships and the world. God loves us, indeed.