Fourth Sunday of Lent

Today we have the privilege of hearing the greatest story ever told, the greatest of Jesus’s parables, the Parable of the prodigal Son. Gandhi tells how when he was fifteen, he stole a little piece of gold from his brother. However, he felt so bad about it that he made up his mind to confess it to his father. He wrote out his sin on a piece of paper, asking for forgiveness and punishment, while promising never to steal again. At the time his father was in bed sick. Gandhi handed him the note and sat by the bedside waiting for his judgment. His father sat up in bed and began to read the note. As he read it, tears came into his eyes. Gandhi himself also cried. Instead of getting angry and punishing him, the father hugged his repentant son, and that was the end of the matter.

“Man had two sons…” Three times in his request to the father the younger son uses the word me: my share of my estate that comes to me. When we speak about the divine love of God, we must never forget that the more we give it away the more we will possess, this is the great paradox of Divine love. The younger son wants this possession for himself. The father acquiesces, gives in and the son goes and loses everything. He wanders off into the big emptiness. How many times have we seen that the rich and famous live very empty lives and many times we have seen in our lives lives, when it comes to material possessions, the more we have the more we want, and we are never satisfied. The son then realizes his plight. Even the poorest people who work for his father have more fulfillment, happiness, more life than he has because he has cut himself off from the love of his father. The son realizes he is totally lost, he has hit rock bottom. We’ve all heard about the 12-step recovery for addictions, they must hit rock bottom before the recovery begins. To give him credit he decides to return. Then we have this beautiful scene in the story when he is still a long way off. The custom was at this time that the Patriarch would sit in his chair, and everyone would come to him. Yet we have this elderly man running, imagine an old man running, humiliating himself. The return of his son had given him a new lease of life. Then we have these beautiful scenes, clasped him, a big bear hug, and threw a party for him. There is a beautiful painting in our sacristy here, which is a copy of the oringinal painting of this scene by the Dutch painter Rembrandt. It was painted by Rembrandt two years before he died in 1669 when his eyesight was failing. In the paining, we see the hands of the father are firmly clasped on the shoulders as if to say: you’re not going again. This is how God treats us sinners; he is a loving and merciful God; and never tires of offering us his mercy.  Then we have the older son; again, the father comes out to him, and invites him to open himself to the divine love. He is angry and fails to forgive and I think that is very relevant for all of us and highlights a difficulty for many of us which is the inability and unwillingness to forgive one another. What the elder son does not understand is that when we receive the love of God, we are supposed to give it back. We should forgive others.  When you read this story which of the two sons do you see in your own life, maybe both. What you receive as a gift give as a gift and it will bring you back to life.

Mother’s Day: Our mothers were or are so important in all our lives. If there were medals for mothers our mothers would win gold every time. Story: Man – florist to buy flowers, boy who was six wanted to buy six roses for his mother. Crying didn’t have money; he hadn’t seen her in one year – he lives with granny. Man paid; he came back to thank him. Man sent roses to his mother, on road outside town he saw boy kneeling at the foot of a grave – this is where my mother stays and on mother’s day I come here to talk to her. He went back to shop and borough flowers personally to his mother. Today we say to all our mothers whether here on in heaven. Thank you for being there, thank you for caring and listening and helping me to find that peace and happiness we all yearn for.