Fourth Sunday of Lent, 2013
In today's Gospel we see a loving man with two sons. The younger son asks for his share of his father's estate; his father gives it to him and in a few days the son leaves home for a far distant land. He spends all his inheritance on a life of dissipation. When he had spent everything, a famine came over the land and he found himself in dire need. He hired himself out to one of the local citizens who sent him to feed the swine. Hungry and tired, he longed to eat the pigs' food, but no one gave him anything. Coming to his senses, he thought, "How many of my father's hired workers have more than enough to eat, but here I am, dying of hunger. I shall get up and go to my father and 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...
Let's pause here to recall a story our chaplain, Fr. Paul Philibert, told us one Sunday during the homily. He said that a fisherman friend once told him the two characteristics of a good fisherman: memory and hope. A fisherman always remembers that big fish he caught and he has a sure hope of catching one like it again. Could we say a good Christian is like this? In this parable, the son "comes to his senses"--he "remembers" how his father treats his hired men, and he "hopes" to be treated at least like one of the servants. He repents hurting his father. But when he came home, his father was just happy to have his son back. He told his older son, "Your brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found. So we must celebrate and rejoice!"
The rest of the story is about the older son and is important. But for now, let it suffice to consider that as the younger son remembered and hoped, so may we when we seem to hit bottom. Let us remember the goodness of the Lord and trust in His prodigal mercy! As the father waited for his son to come back, so does our heavenly Father wait for us. He embraces us and kisses us when we return. "We must celebrate and rejoice!"