|Fourth Sunday of Lent
The Prodigal Son
The story of the prodigal son has been heard year after year. It reminds us of the extremes that God will go to to show his mercy and love. By many of our opinions, the prodigal son got off easy. Imagine your own receiving his share of the family inheritance, going away and carelessly spending it, then returning home and receiving a royal welcome. It should be obvious that the way God shows love, forgiveness and mercy is quite different from the way you and I administer love, forgiveness and mercy.
And while we are on this earth we should try to bring this same love, forgiveness and mercy that we have received to others.
Every priest who is taught how to hear confessions is reminded of the story of the prodigal son when he hears confessions. As a confessor, no matter how tired, unhappy he is, he must have the penitent leave having experienced the love, forgiveness and mercy of God. That is what confession is all about. The penitent, like the prodigal son, should be royally treated in confession.
Now, knowing that confession should be a royal homecoming to God, where love, forgiveness and mercy are experienced, I want you to use your imagination in this way. Suppose you were a Catholic priest and had the power to absolve, to offer love, forgiveness and mercy. Here are three cases I want you to consider.
One took place in the year 1505. The man going to confession was the reigning Pope. He is the Pope who commissioned Michelangelo to produce the "Pieta", the beautiful statue of Christ and Mary. He did great work for the Renaissance period. Much of the art and architecture of the Renaissance is due to him. But a couple of things you should know about this Pope. He was elected Pope through bribery. He had two children as Pope, Alexander and Lucretia Borgia. But now, you are his priest confessor. He is sorrowful, he is contrite. He is asking for you to experience the love, forgiveness and mercy that is told in the Gospel of the prodigal son.
The second case history, you are the confessor hearing confessions in a maximum security jail. This prisoner comes to you and tells you he is a serial killer. His name is Charles Manson. You detect there is no sorrow. You think he is a serious mental case. Now do you, as a confessor, offer him the love, forgiveness and mercy of the Gospel of the prodigal son?
The third case, you still are the priest confessor. A man comes to you and says, I have been accused of molesting and groping several women. If what I did was wrong, I ask the mercy and forgiveness of God. By the way, my name is President Clinton.
The mercy and love of God as seen in the gospel of the prodigal son is quite different from the way we would administer those qualities. We can say we were hurt by others, betrayed by others, had our trust violated. We are going to hurt those who have hurt us. We are out for vengeance.
If you really believe in the love, forgiveness and mercy of God that he has given to us over the years, then we have to imitate this gospel in forgiving those who have trespassed against us. You cannot expect Christ, no more than the prodigal father, to welcome you if you are carrying a grudge, or harboring an unforgiving heart.
If you expect your life to be in imitation of Christ, then you have to recall what he said to those who hurt, injured and eventually killed him. He simply said, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do."
This is the theme of the gospel of the prodigal son. The gospel might be 2,000 years of age, the lessons are still of love, forgiveness and mercy to everyone in your life.
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