March 22, 2014

The Gospel Today 

Saturday of the Second Week of Lent

Luke 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.’“

Reflection (Sem. Alfredo Dimaano, Jr.):

     Today’s responsorial psalm, “The Lord is kind and merciful. (Psalm 103)”, captures the essence of the Parable of the Prodigal Son in this day’s reading. I believe, that a more apt title for it must be “The Parable of the Merciful Father”. I have been a wayward son myself with my repeated sins and unkindness and at times, the thought of facing God and asking for His forgiveness gets in the way. No matter what, I know that with a sincere heart in asking for pardon, He welcomes me back with arms wide open. For me, to be in sin is to be “away in a distant land” like the young son. Whenever I am away, I know that God is always there, patiently leading me close to home to restore me and allow me to start anew. To experience the tenderness of God’s heart through forgiveness is more than enough reason for me to do the same. The challenge from being a forgiven prodigal son is to be like the Father: compassionate, welcoming, forgiving and to welcome back as well those who were astray but wanted to be reunited with us.

      Is not our lives like a story of homecoming? In our earthly existence, there were moments when we ran away from the Father through unrepented sins, immoralities, failings, or spiritual inadequacies. But if we know to whom we must go to and to where we should belong, we can always look back, find the path that guides us, and for sure, our hearts will lead us home. When we have done everything and have persevered with love, in the end, we return to Him. Our lives must be an anticipation of our heavenly homecoming.

      We must never lose hope in asking for his mercy. As Pope Francis perfectly puts it: God never tires of forgiving us; we are the ones who tire of seeking his mercy. If I am lost, I ask for the grace to allow myself to be found by Jesus who continues to seek me because his love is without measure. But God can never force anyone of us to go back to Him. Only those who are willing to return to His comforting care will find their way back home.

      God is called with so many names in the Bible but mercy is His greatest attribute. I encountered these words in a book I read during one of our recollection weekends: Ecclesiastes names Thee the Almighty; Maccabees names Thee Creator; Baruch names Thee Immensity; Psalms name Thee Wisdom and Truth; Book of Kings names Thee Lord; Exodus names Thee Providence; Leviticus names Thee Holiness; Esdras names Thee Justice; Creation calls Thee God; Man names Thee Father; but St. Luke names Thee Mercy—  and that is the most beautiful of all Thy Names.

     Especially in this great season of Lent, let us acknowledge our unworthiness and experience God’s magnanimous welcome upon our return. Remember that God does not give up on us. It may be us who gives up on ourselves.

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