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Fourth Sunday of Lent

Would you welcome a run-away child with wide open arms if one day, he/she finally returns home?

The parable of the prodigal son has been acclaimed as the best short story ever told which highlights the unconditional love of God towards a repentant sinner. It sounds like it’s about the son but it’s actually designed to emphasize an extremely compassionate and loving Father. The opening verse, “There was a man who had two sons…” speaks volumes regarding the intent of the story. The Father both loved his two sons without partiality. Upon the younger son’s request of his share of the inheritance (a cultural taboo), he consented. You normally wait until death before doing so. Such a thing (request) was terribly disrespectful on the part of the younger son, an unimaginable scenario even in today’s world. The father knew that giving his younger son a 1/3 of the estate wasn’t the right thing to do at that moment but he reluctantly allowed it under tough circumstances out of love and concern. After he got it, he spent money in dissolute living. Long story short, he decided to come back to his father ready to be treated as one of the servants. But lo and behold, on his return, he didn’t even get the chance to say sorry along with his rehearsed speech, “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 (Lk. 15:18-19).” Before he could even utter a word, his father’s arms were already wrapped around him, a loving and heartfelt embrace all of us long for much more than any of us deserves. The most touching part of the story was that the father had been on the lookout. That meant, he must have waited all this time (that long) for his wayward child to come back. He didn’t lose hope. And so, the moment he saw him even from afar, he ran, embraced and actually kissed him.

What we just heard was out of the ordinary. I expected the Father going ballistic after all the trouble caused by the younger child. If this happened here in Douglas (I’m sure it did), this would have been the talk of the town or hit the front page of Douglas Dispatch. Following the hugs and kisses, the father, in an unusual attempt, didn’t just offer coffee and donuts which would have been more than enough for him. Wasting no time, he, in fact, called for an extravagant party! Immediately, he ordered his servants to prepare for a lavish feast, to eat, be merry and celebrate. Bring me all kinds of salsa (verde y rojo) including pico de gallo, taco (soft and hard shell, whoever invented taco must have been a genius) barbacoa, roast pig for Filipinos…pull out the never worn tuxedo and ring in the closet… “This is my son! He was dead and has come back to life! He was lost and has been found!” If you lived next door, you would have joined the party even on a short notice.

As you know, the older son was devastated. This happens to many of us devote Catholics. The embrace of the younger doesn’t mean the exact opposite. Think of it this way, if you have a special child, I bet you’re going to spend as much time with the one needing attention than anyone in the family. In so doing, it doesn't mean that you don't care about the others. 

Throughout the Lenten season, we’ve been inundated with texts and messages about repentance and return. Programs, local and national, have been carefully created to target the younger son’s return, a high priority in any parish outreach ministry. Getting the inactive and the fallen-away involved, doing everything possible to put them back on the pew, is by far the ultimate business of any parish community. Unless we draw and attract people to the church, we haven’t completely done our job, our fair share. It always starts with a welcoming attitude, a hospitable environment, a deep prayer life along with a simple and humble invitation leading to the celebration of the sacrament of healing, that is, penance and reconciliation. Sacraments, by nature, will get us closer to God. Please join the catholic community in this Friday’s communal penance service, a special and solemn occasion to wipe away our sins, to rekindle our spirits, clear our conscience, to purify our hearts and souls, to get rid of our demons, to feel God’s immeasurable love in confession.  Amen.


Tags: Fourth Sunday of Lent


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