Sunday, 14 March 2010
4th Sunday of Lent, Year C, Shaftesbury 11am Mass
We’ve just heard the Gospel parable of the Prodigal Son – a familiar text, even in our secular world.
I want to focus on simple question: WHO is the prodigal son?
For some of you, you may think of your children –maybe who have left home, or left the Faith. In that context, the Gospel reminds us of our need to be ready to welcome them back
But, at its simplest and most profound level, for EACH of us, the question of WHO the prodigal son is: The prodigal son is ME, and it is YOU. And the Gospel is about our Heavenly Father’s desire to welcome us home
The prodigal son needed to go home, But there are many different things that PREVENT us going home.
For many in the secular world outside, they are prevented by not knowing the simple fact that they are AWAY from home, because they do not know the Father and the Father’s heavenly home, because they do not know the beauty of heaven, because they do not know that life has a deeper purpose than feeding self on husks of swine.
For many others outside, they are prevented by not knowing that they are in sin, prevented by the fact that they deny that what they are doing is wrong, prevented from coming home by the fact that they deny that they are away from the Father’s house.
For still others in the world outside, they are prevented by a combination that results in despair: In that cynicism in which there seems no hope of lifting self out of mire -not knowing that the Father DESIRES them to return, makes POSSIBLE their return, gives GRACE and Strength to return, despite repeated failures.
But what of ourselves? How do we grade according to those three tests I mentioned?
Do we presume that we are already home? –because I know it’s easy for me to relax into my life, to falsely presume.
Do we presume that we are not ourselves blind to our own sin? –the longer I’ve lived the more I’ve seen sins in my life that I was blind to in the past, which raises the question of which sins in my life TODAY I fail to see.
And, we might not think that we despair, but if we are comfortable in our own mediocrity, content to not love God more, then that is a form of despair.
As Christians, we might well say that we are both away from the Father’s home and at home.
To come home more fully, we need to realise all the ways that we are away from home, we need to look at our lives honestly, and realise that our lives are not yet as God would have us live them.
When Jesus told us how we should live, He told us we should be perfect: He did not say, ‘Be mediocre as your heavenly Father is mediocre’, or, ‘Be good enough as your heavenly Father is good enough’. No. He said, ‘Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect’ (Mt 5: 48).
To be perfect, means to love perfectly, to be alive and sensitive to the needs and concerns of our family, our neighbour.
Sacramentally, the most pivotal realisation of our returning home to God is going to Confession. We’ll soon have our parish Lenten penitential service. In the sacrament of Confession Jesus has given us the MEANS to return to Him, via His Church, to hear His words of forgiveness.
The Gospel of the Prodigal Son is a reminder to each of us not only that we NEED to come home to the Father, but that we CAN go home to the Father, that He is ready to welcome us, that He is calling us, and that His grace is strengthening is –if we will but use it.