It is not easy to entrust oneself to God's mercy, because it is an abyss beyond our comprehension. But we must! ... "Oh, I am a great sinner!" "All the better! Go to Jesus: He likes you to tell him these things!" He forgets, He has a very special capacity for forgetting. He forgets, He kisses you, He embraces you and He simply says to you: "Neither do I condemn you; go, and sin no more" (Jn 8:11). — Pope Francis (Homily on March 17, 2013)
Gospel Text: (LK 15:1-3, 11-32)
Tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to Jesus,
but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying,
“This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
So to them Jesus addressed this parable.
“A man had two sons, and the younger son said to his father,
‘Father, give me the share of your estate that should come to me.’
So the father divided the property between them.
After a few days, the younger son collected all his belongings
and set off to a distant country
where he squandered his inheritance on a life of dissipation.
When he had freely spent everything,
a severe famine struck that country,
and he found himself in dire need.
So he hired himself out to one of the local citizens
who sent him to his farm to tend the swine.
And he longed to eat his fill of the pods on which the swine fed,
but nobody gave him any.
Coming to his senses he thought,
‘How many of my father’s hired workers
have more than enough food to eat,
but here am I, dying from hunger.
I shall get up and go to my father and I shall say to him,
“Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.
I no longer deserve to be called your son;
treat me as you would treat one of your hired workers.”’
So he got up and went back to his father.
While he was still a long way off,
his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion.
He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him.
His son said to him,
‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you;
I no longer deserve to be called your son.’
But his father ordered his servants,
‘Quickly, bring the finest robe and put it on him;
put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.
Take the fattened calf and slaughter it.
Then let us celebrate with a feast,
because this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again;
he was lost, and has been found.’
Then the celebration began.
Now the older son had been out in the field
and, on his way back, as he neared the house,
he heard the sound of music and dancing.
He called one of the servants and asked what this might mean.
The servant said to him,
‘Your brother has returned
and your father has slaughtered the fattened calf
because he has him back safe and sound.’
He became angry,
and when he refused to enter the house,
his father came out and pleaded with him.
He said to his father in reply,
‘Look, all these years I served you
and not once did I disobey your orders;
yet you never gave me even a young goat to feast on with my friends.
But when your son returns
who swallowed up your property with prostitutes,
for him you slaughter the fattened calf.’
He said to him,
‘My son, you are here with me always;
everything I have is yours.
But now we must celebrate and rejoice,
because your brother was dead and has come to life again;
he was lost and has been found.’”
Picture to yourself this young man, alone, hungry, penniless, far from home. The picture of every sinner. We may sin with others but we pay the price alone. There are not many visitors to a pig sty, so he has a lot of time to think. His thoughts go back to his home, his father, his brother, the happiness he once had. He begins to contrast his present misery with his former happiness. “How many hired servants there are in my father’s house who have more bread than they can eat, and here am I without anything to eat.” Touched by grace, he says, “I will arise and go to my father, and say to him, ‘I have sinned against God and against you. I am not worthy to be called your son, just make me as one of the hired servants.”
Isn’t that the story of you? Isn’t that the story of me? Isn’t that the story of every one of us? How many times have we left the “bread” of our father’s house for the “husks of swine?” And how many times have we come back and received the same welcome as this young man?
But the parable is not about the prodigal son if you really think about it, its about the father.
I think its more about the father’s unconditional love than the sins of his son. It is about our heavenly Father who loves us unconditionally with a love we can never earn or be worthy of. Who loves us not because of what we are but because of Who He is. It is all about the fidelity of the love of God. It is all about divine mercy.
We are all sinners. Whether your sins are more visible like those of the younger son or more hidden like those of the elder son, the message for us today is that we all need to repent and return to the father's house.