To watch Fr. Joe’s homily from the Fourth Sunday of Lent: CLICK HERE!
To watch Fr. Joe’s Homily from the 4th Sunday of Lent: CLICK HERE!
This Sunday’s Gospel is the story, the parable of the Prodigal Son. A story we heard many times. But what we may have forgotten, is the context of this story.
The Gospel today says, “tax collectors and sinners” came to hear Jesus. And when the Pharisees and Scribes observe this, they begin to “complain” that Jesus would hang out with these people. They had negative stereotypes of sinners and tax collectors. The Pharisees and Scribes saw themselves as “better than those people.”
This type of stereotyping and complaining about a person or a group of people is what prompted Jesus to tell the parable we hear today. This entire parable, the longest one that Jesus tells, can be summed up in the first half of Jesus’ opening line, “A man had two sons…”
These five words pack quite a wallop!
One son who had run away, blew his inheritance, and acted totally irresponsibility. And one son who stayed home, budgeted his money, and did all that was asked of him. The two sons were as different as night and day.
Though poles apart in personalities, they could not escape the fact that they were brothers. They were family; “a man had two sons.”
A man, a father, who loved his sons, who really loved his sons! (no matter what!)
In our world today, it is no secret that people often disdain others; look down on other people. We hear about it almost daily: Republican & Democrat; Conservative & Liberal; Trump supporters & Trump haters; Blacks & Whites; undocumented immigrants & legal citizens; rich and poor, and the list goes on…
Maybe this weekend is a good time to think of the person or group that we see as different. Maybe someone we complain about… And the next time we gripe about that person, imagine what Jesus would say to us, “a man had two sons…”
To watch Father Tom Hayes’ homily from the Fourth Sunday of Lent: CLICK HERE!
The parable that Jesus tells in today’s Gospel has always been one of my favorites. It’s a parable that I’m sure many of you know, or that most of you have at least heard. It is yet another example of Jesus telling us about unconditional love. God’s love for each one of us.
But that’s not why it is one of my favorite parables.
It is one of my favorite stories because I can easily place myself in the story, and not just as one of the characters we come to know as we listen, but I can place myself in the story as any of the characters. For me it is simply a matter of what is going on in my life at that moment.
And so I’m going to ask you to try and put yourself into the story at different times in your life and see if you can remember when you acted like these characters.
First as the younger son. Have you ever said, or done something hurtful to someone who loves you? Maybe your mother of father, maybe a spouse, or perhaps some other significant person in your life. That’s what the younger son did when he asked his father for his share of the inheritance. Essentially, he looked as his father and said I don’t care about you, and I don’t place any value on the things that you have done for me. He looked at his father and said you are dead to me! And then he went and lived a prodigal (wasteful, extravagant) life, spending freely what he had and never caring about anyone but himself.
As I look back over my life I know that I have behaved that way at times. Maybe not in the words that he used and maybe not by telling my parents that I didn’t care what they thought, but as I reflect on my life I know that I have said things to people who love me and care about me that, in retrospect I know were very hurtful. Of course at that moment I didn’t think that what I was saying was so wrong, after all I was being independent, thinking for myself. Unfortunately, I can look back and see that although I was able to justify my actions at the time I still had a great deal to learn about life, and love, and relationships. As much as I hate to admit it I was, and probably at times still am, the younger son. The Prodigal Son.
The good news for the younger son, and for anyone of us who can place ourselves in that role, is that there is always hope, and that when the person we have hurt truly loves us there will be forgiveness.
Now, place yourself in the story as the older brother. Can you think of a time when, because of circumstances, you were so angry at someone that you couldn’t feel any love for the other person in the situation? You couldn’t bring yourself to forgive. Again, not real hard for me to see this behavior in my own past. Times when I judged someone by a standard that I set for them without knowing the whole story. Without knowing what their journey had been like to bring them to do, or say whatever it was that I judged as wrong.
In my mind they said, or did something that I thought they shouldn’t have done, and now I wasn’t going to have anything to do with them. Times when my actions were probably not what Jesus and God have done for me more time than I can count.
And finally the father, maybe we should call him the Prodigal Father… because his behavior, his actions personify the other definition of prodigal… to give generously, or lavishly, or unsparingly.
As you think about your own life have there been times when you gave without thinking about the cost? Have you loved unconditionally?
I suspect most everyone here has, at some point in their life given without thinking about the cost, or loved unconditionally.
And that love that the Prodigal Father shows for his repentant prodigal son, the love that God shows for each and every one of us every moment of every day, is what this parable is all about.
Imagine what the world would be like if each one of us lived like the Prodigal Father!
Scriptures: 2 Chronicles 36:14-16, 19-23; Ephesians 2:4-10; John 3:14-21
A couple went on their dream vacation to Hawaii. The husband, an organized and frugal man, had reserved compact rental cars on each of the four islands. On arriving at the big island and presenting their reservation to the car rental desk, they were told that the economy car they had reserved was not available. The wife readied herself as her husband’s face reddened in preparation for battle. But the clerk did not seem to notice. “I’m sorry, sir,” he said, “will you except an upgrade for the same price?” Barely satisfied, her husband put their bags in a beautiful white sports car and off they drove.
The same thing happened throughout the vacation. They would turn in their car and fly to the next island, only to be told the budget car they had been promised was not available and offered a same price substitution. It was amazing, she said later. For the price of a small compact, they had been given a Mazda MR-10, A Lincoln town car, and finally a Mercedes – all with the sincerest apologies of the rental agencies.
The vacation was absolutely wonderful and on the flight home, she turned to her husband to thank him for all he had done to arrange such a memorable time.
“Yes,” he said, “it was really nice. It’s too bad they never had the right car for us.”
He was absolutely serious.
It goes without saying, this poor guy could not see or appreciate the good things right in front of him.
The Gospel challenges us to see the love of God all around us in the love of family and friends, in the beauty of creation, in every act of justice, kindness, and mercy we witness.
Jesus reveals a much bigger God than we can imagine: a God who does not condemn but loves; a God who does not punish but lifts up; a God who does not destroy but reconciles.
This is the God we meet in the person of Jesus – a God who is loving father, compassionate physician, wise and generous friend – in whom we discover our identity as children of God and participants with God in the work of re-creation.
You know we are a lot like the disciples during the time of Jesus; it took time for them to come to know and to be disciples of Jesus.
Being disciples of Jesus is more than saying I’m Catholic, it’s more than saying I believe in God, it’s more than saying I go to church.
Being disciples of Jesus means living the gift of faith.
Being disciples of Jesus means sharing the story of Jesus.
Being disciples of Jesus means living the story of Jesus with our children, spouse, relatives, friends, parishioners, co-workers, classmates, everyone.
St. Paul today reminds us all that we are all called to be disciples of Jesus in today’s world. St. Paul reminds us that each of us is the handiwork of God, God’s work of art, graced by God to carry on the good works God has in mind for you, for me, for us…
In one of the “Peanuts” Cartoons, Snoopy is sitting on the roof of his doghouse, typing a letter that says: “Dear God, I just want to say I love you.” In another strip, Peppermint Patty is telling Snoopy her troubles. She’s a mess after the week she just endured and asks him, “What do you do when everything goes wrong?” Snoopy’s response is to give Patty a big kiss on her cheek. “That’s good advice,” Patty says. Snoopy reminds us that love is always the best answer for us to give and the one we always hope to receive. Best of all, the one who loves us the most is: God.