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cappie

FOURTH SUNDAY OF LENT

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cappie

An image is formed by the gospel story, of a God with open arms ready to receive us in a loving embrace. 

In the parable of what has come to be called The Prodigal Son, the father has never stopped loving the child who chose to go away. Through one powerful sentence in the story—But while he was still far off, his father saw him—we too see the father constantly on the lookout for his lost son. And even though this formerly rich, well-nourished, and well-dressed young profligate is now filthy, skinny, and in rags, the father recognizes him from afar and runs to meet him with open arms. The picture of the younger son  is the perfect image of selfishness—he takes what the father offers and goes away in order to waste it. We recognize selfishness because it resides in all of us; we recognize the sin of saying “I am my own, I belong only to myself, I owe nothing to my Creator; I will do as I please. We see the younger son in this parable lowering himself to the degradation for a Jew of his time; to live among pigs.  

If the story ended there, with expressions of “It served him right because he was an ungrateful son,” the depression and desperation would be complete. But, the story does not end. The young man looks at his condition and  says: “Here I am living among pigs while even my father’s servants have enough to eat.” Of course, this is a selfish reaction, however like the psalmist, the young sinner acknowledges his sin and does not conceal his guilt: “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” This is the beginning of repentance,  of knowing that we don’t belong to ourselves alone. Our separation, our sin, is first against heaven and then against those who have loved us. Acknowledging this state is the first step toward reconciliation.

The young son sets off to return to his father, confident that he will be received, because he knows his father’s heart. And he is not wrong. The father is keeping vigil, his arms open, his eyes searching the horizon to see the returning son, to recognize him as his own, no matter how disfigured he now is. The father of the Prodigal Son does not ask, “What have you done to bring yourself to this condition?” He doesn’t reprimand and say, “I warned you that this would happen to you if you lived according to your desires.” No, he asks nothing of the past because the “old has passed away.”

When the young man left his home years before, his thought was: I can do what I want. I am my own. Now he returns knowing that he belongs to his father, that he is not his own. And as he is received into the open arms of his loving father, he becomes the recipient of extreme generosity: excellent food, clean clothes, good footwear, and a celebration—although he deserves none of it. It is enough that he has repented. He enters into the new creation made possible by reconciliation.


Yet, reconciliation doesn’t stop there. St. Paul makes it clear that now that God has taken us back into God’s embrace, “reconciled us to himself through Christ,” we receive a new gift: “the ministry of reconciliation.” We cannot remain enclosed in this loving embrace without becoming “ambassadors for Christ.”

There is so much misery in this world,  the ministry of reconciliation, of spreading the good news of God’s new creation in Christ, belongs to us. This may be daunting, even frightening, but it is there. We cannot escape it. We must continue to remember that in this new creation, “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus,” as St. Paul declares.

In a world that is divided, at a time when hatred seems to be winning over love and where hostility works against reconciliation, let us move as true ambassadors for Christ to spread the good news of God’s embrace for all of God’s creation and created beings. “We entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” St. Paul’s words ring in our ears: “On behalf of Christ.” And the image of a loving father, of God’s arms ready to embrace each lost child, stays before our eyes No matter where we are on the journey, this Lent the Lord always invites us, week after week, to feast at his table of forgiveness, reconciliation, and love. 
 

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BarbaraTherese
3 hours ago, cappie said:

2-3.jpg

 Great homily on a favourite parable ............. and a great image above, very moving.  Thank you again, Father.

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