Homily for March 6

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Homily for the Fourth Sunday of Lent
Scriptures for today's Mass

Audio for homily

Imagine all the reasons the father in this story had
for NOT welcoming his son home so graciously and generously.

The young man disrespected his father by asking for his inheritance
without even a hint of dad’s failing health or demise
and upon receiving it, he promptly left home, abandoning his family.

He showed his “gratitude” for his father’s generosity
by squandering all this money in the worst ways imaginable,
doing nothing at all to honor his father’s legacy
but rather bringing shame on his family.

He didn’t write, email, text or call home – he just disappeared.
Ending up homeless he found a job at a piggery
where the swine ate better than he did.

He was now a servant of pigs – an embarrassing job for a kosher lad.
In an effort to fill his belly and save his butt,
he heads home with a plan to apologize to his dad
with the hope of getting three squares a day.

This is the son who comes home, his tail between his legs.
to be met by a merciful, forgiving father.

Certainly his dad had every reason to reject and ignore him
and send him on his way.
Instead, he’s so overjoyed to see his son
that he brushes aside the apology, embraces him with compassion –  
and throws a big party!

So many reasons to turn away this prodigal offspring,
but instead – he’s welcomed home.

The parable is not primarily an instruction
for how fathers are to treat their sons
but rather an illustration of how God, father of us all, treats all of us.

•Perhaps not too many of us have been as bold and foolish
as the son in the story
but all of us at different times, in different ways, in different relationships
have disrespected others, deserving of our honor and regard.

•Haven’t all of us, at one time or another,
grabbed with greed to please ourselves at the expense of others?

•Who among us hasn’t, at some point, squandered and wasted
something valuable we’d been given? Money, talents, opportunities?

•Have some of us had the experience of bringing shame
on others who had done no wrong – and certainly no wrong to us?

•How often have we failed to “keep kosher” with regard to
the teachings and customs of our own Catholic Christian faith?

•Who among us isn’t guilty of failing to be in touch
with those who love us, care for us and worry about us?

•And who hasn’t apologized for something
at least partly out of contrition
but equally out of a desire to save our own skin?

We shouldn’t be too quick to think that “we’re not really like”
the prodigal son.
Just because we haven’t hit bottom as certainly as he did
doesn’t mean that we don’t stand in need of God’s mercy.

And that, of course, is the point of the parable.

Our God is like the father in the story.
Our God sees and knows not only our deeds
but also the schemes in our thoughts, our darkest fantasies
and the selfish desires of our hearts.

Perhaps that’s why the older brother enters the story:
to surface pride, resentment, anger and jealousy.
And yet even as the father was gentle in welcoming home his younger son
so is he gentle in counseling the offended elder brother.

Nothing – and no one - stands outside the merciful reach of God’s arm.
No sin, no matter how grievous, is beyond God’s forgiving, healing touch.

The welcome given the prodigal son
is the welcome that awaits every one of us!

Only one thing is required: that we come to God.
However imperfect or self-serving the young son’s contrition,
it was enough to bring him home.

No matter how strong the elder son’s indignant pique,
the father came out to urge him to come in.

Only one thing is required: that we come to God.

Such is the mercy of God for each of us – without exception.
Like the father in the story,
God waits for us to come home and be reconciled.

And when we can’t find what we need to reach out for God’s forgiveness,
then God comes out to draw us into his loving arms.

At the end of the parable there’s a great banquet
and at the end of our lives, a banquet is waiting for us, too.

Will we confess and leave our sins behind and come home to God,
asking for mercy and pardon?

Will we bow to God’s mercy when we see how he draws near
to draw us into his love?

Lent is a season to consider questions just like these
and to understand that God’s greatest desire is to forgive us
and hold us in his healing love.

The altar before us is a sign of the table that waits us in the kingdom.
It’s a mercy table where the Lord invites all of us to join him.
The way to the table is path of contrition and forgiveness.

Pray with me, this Lent, that all of us will, as did the younger son,
“come to our senses”           
and come home to receive the gift of God’s mercy.


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