2nd Week of Lent, Saturday, Mar 6
Micah 7:14-15, 18-20 / Luke 15:1-3, 11-32
Jesus teaches about forgiveness; "A man had two sons . . . "
A child was born of devout parents. As a young man, however, he not only left home but also abandoned any attachment to the true faith. Ile lived what we would call a wild life and even fathered a son out of wedlock. One person stood by him, his mother.She never gave up praying for him. At her insistent urging he listened to the preaching of a very holy bishop. Struck by the preaching and influenced by his mother's prayers, he realized the mistakes he had and changed his whole way of life. His conversion was so complete that he founded a religious order, was made a bishop, and became a famous preacher, writer, and theologian of the Church. At his mother's funeral he said in his sermon, "I weep for my mother, now dead before my sight who wept for me for so many years that I might live in her sight." We now honour this man every year in the liturgy on August 28th as the great St. Augustine.
St. Monica, Augustine's mother, never gave up on him, just as God never gives up anyone, whether they be big sinners or little sinners. During Lent the Church calls us to repentance and like a good mother weeps for our sins and prays for our conversion. Though we have not abandoned our Father's home, we must do penance for all our sins, big or small, and we must try to cooperate with the grace of God who wishes to raise us even to the heights of sanctity.
This parable contains two remarkable things. The first is the son's demand for his inheritance. To demand one's inheritance before the death of one's parents was cruel.It was to rob them of their "social security." The second is the father's welcome of his son. He embraces him, withholding no affection. He puts shoes on his son's feet. Freemen wore shoes; slaves went barefooted. Shoes removed from the son the sign that he was somebody's slave and restored to him the sign that he was somebody's son. Finally, the father puts a ring on his son's finger. It was undoubtedly the family's signet ring. To possess it was to possess the power to act in the family's name. In brief, the father forgives his son totally.
How forgiving are we of those who have sinned against us? "Mercy imitates God and disappoints Satan." John Chyrsostom
When we forgive those who have hurt us, often some scars remain and take a long time to heal. Even if we have not personally suffered from a crime, we cry for blood and vengeance in the name of society, and we don’t treat a released prisoner or sinner who has made up for his failure as if he had done no wrong. But God does. He remains faithful to the love once given. He comes forward both to welcome the returning sinner and to invite the brother or sister who has a hard time to welcome his lost brother or sister to share in the joy of forgiveness and his return.
Based on anecdotal evidence, we can say that there is a black sheep in every family. Usually that is referred to one of the children. That particular child is always out of step with the rest and seems to be marching to a different tune. That 'black sheep' is the bane and the burden of parents. Some parents will resort to renouncement of the relationship with that child, others will resort to punishment which may actually be just a way of venting out their frustrations on the child.
In today's gospel parable we hear of yet another way of dealing with the 'black sheep'. The father gave in to his younger son's request, but yet further on in the parable, we hear of the father waiting and looking out for him to return. What made the son came to his senses was that he recalled how kindly his father treated his servants. That was enough for him to get moving.
No matter how far a person has gone over to the dark and destructive side, the memories of love and kindness and goodness can never be erased from him. It is these memories that will make a person come to his senses and bring him back to the light. So, when we come across the odd one, the black sheep, the sinner, let us be the reflection of God's love to that person.
The 1st reading describes God taking fault away, pardoning crime, not cherishing anger for ever but delighting in showing mercy. Let us be that image of God for others to help them come to their senses and return to God.
Faithful Father, you are our God of grace, mercy and forgiveness. When mercy and pardon sound paternalistic to modern ears, make us realize, Lord, that you challenge us to face ourselves and to become new people, responsible for the destiny of ourselves and for the happiness of others. Make us responsive to your love through Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen