Year C 4th Sunday of Lent

Jos. 5:9a, 10-12; 2 Cor. 5:17-21; Lk. 15:1-3, 11-32

Dear brothers and sisters

It is amazing how Jesus imparted life's most crucial lessons to us through these wonderful stories, stories that were easy to associate with, not only then, but even today, 2,000 years after they were told. One such story is that of the Prodigal Son. This parable is also
known as Two Sons, Lost Son, The Running Father, and The Loving Father.
Jesus narrates this story when he was accused by the Pharisees of keeping the company of the sinners. This is written in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 15, verses 1-2: "Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, 'This man receives sinners and eats with them." Jesus responds to their accusation by giving out three parables of loss and redemption.

The parable of the Prodigal Son is a story about God's redemptive grace and mercy.  It is a story of His unconditional love and forgiveness.  It is a story about God seeking sinners. It is a story of breakdown of a relationship. It is a story about conversion of a real sinner. It is a story of a father's love and hope. This parable has many lessons with deep meaning. Let us  reflect on just two lessons the  parables places before us. Repentance of a sinner and how God receives the one who returns to him with real repentance.

"Repentance" is a short story by Russian author Leo Tolstoy. The story details the difficulties of a repentant sinner's attempts to enter Heaven. The story opens with the imminent death of a 70-year-old sinner. The man has never done a good deed in his life. He fell ill but even then did not repent. Only at the last moment, as he was dying, he wept and said "Lord forgive me, as Thou forgavest the thief upon the cross"
As he said these words his soul left his body. And the soul of the sinner, feeling love towards God and faith in His mercy, went to the gates of heaven and knocked.
 The man knocks and knocks at the gates, but to no avail. Finally, the Accuser decrees that such a sinner cannot enter Heaven, and all the man's sins are recited. The sinner begs to be let in, but Peter the apostle explains that such a sinner cannot be allowed in. The sinner points out that for all of Peter's virtue, he still sinned by denying Christ. He is still not let in.
The sinner continues his knocking, and is again met by his list of sins by the Accuser. Now Kind David explains that such a sinner cannot be allowed in. The sinner points out that for all of David's virtue, he still sinned by committing adultery. He is still not let in.
The sinner continues his knocking, and now is spoken to by John the apostle. The sinner pleads with John, saying that he of all people should understand repentance. The repentant sinner is finally allowed into Heaven.

Unlike Tolstoy's story, the story of Prodigal son shows us a father who is eagerly waiting for the return of the repentant son.

In every repentance there is a person or situation that  acts as a medium to make them  realize that they were wrong. If a person has to repent first he should feel that he was wrong. When the Prodigal son came to his senses, he said, 'How many of my father's hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death!  I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.  I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.'  So he got up and went to his father.

In the fast moving  modern life we often fail to realize what we do is correct or wrong. To understand our standards we have to compare us with higher standards. The Code of Hammurabi is a well-preserved Babylonian code of law of ancient Mesopotamia., dated back to about 1754 BC. It is one of the oldest deciphered writings of significant length in the world. The sixth Babylonian king, Hammurabi, enacted the code. A partial copy exists on a 2.25 meter (7.5 ft) stone stele. It consists of 282 laws, with scaled punishments, adjusting "an eye for an eye,  a tooth for a tooth" (lex talionis). In Exodus too we find similar laws. (Ex 21:24) But if  a serious injury results, then you must require a life for a life – eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, and stripe for stripe. So the people who lived in Old Testament times compared their moral standards with that of the existing laws. But Jesus had set higher standards and asked his followers to follow it. Jesus taught "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you."

Always we have to compare our life with higher standards. Then if we see what we are doing is not correct show the courage to accept it. Once we realize it show the courage to  change. In our relation with the members of our family if there are areas to be rectified show the courage to accept it and change it. If our conduct and way of talk requires to be changed  have the courage to rectify it. If our approach to other people require to be changed  show the courage to change it. This is the conversion that will happen in our life. Once it is done we will experience the inner peace and presence of God in our life. We will have the experience of the father who waited  for his son. God's mercy and peace will reign in our life.

During the season of lent may God give us the grace to evaluate our life against higher standards, and the courage to change whatever we feel not befitting our standards.