Jos. 5:9a, 10-12; 2 Cor. 5:17-21; Lk. 15:1-3, 11-32
During Lent the Church insistently urges us to accept the message of Jesus, “Repent, and believe in the Good News.” Throughout his teaching Jesus insisted on accepting God’s mercy. In chapter 15 Luke narrates three parables dealing with God’s mercy. The parable of a shepherd who lost a sheep, the parable of the woman who lost a coin and the parable of the prodigal son. The last one has been called “the queen of all parables.” Millions of people down the centuries have been touched by this parable.
Jesus narrated the story systematically. The younger son collected his share and left for a distant country. In the beginning of creation we read when Adam disobeyed God he was sent out from paradise, and our forefathers lost the comfort of paradise and wandered in the jungle. Sin takes away man from God.
Samson was a great warrior in the Old Testament. He is well known for his incredible strength. He used this extraordinary strength to kill a lion with his bare hands and slaughter 1,000 men using only a jawbone. Samson, however, became arrogant due to his physical prowess and began drifting away from God’s laws. He fell in love with an unholy woman. She learned that the secret of Samson’s strength was his long hair. She shaved his head in the middle of the night, stealing his strength so the Philistines could take him prisoner. Samson was blinded and imprisoned. The story of Samson makes it clear that eventually, the bill for sin comes due.
The first message of the parable is sin takes us away from God. As we depart from God, we walk away from the light, away from joy and away from life.
In the distant country the young man squandered all his money, and eventually fell into poverty. As long as he had money the young man had many friends. But with his money gone, his friends vanished. He had never known what hunger was before. Now he fell into utter poverty. He was forced to work to find food.
The new master put him on his farm to feed the pigs. The Jews were forbidden to have any association with pigs. But the young man fell into that misery. From this stage the conversion of the young man starts.
When the Prodigal son came to his senses he realized his mistake. The first thing that we require is to be accepting the fact we have sinned.
A man woke up in the morning deeply repentant after a bitter fight with his wife the previous night. He noticed with dismay the care of beer bottles that had caused the fight. He took it outside and started smashing the empty bottles one by one into the wall. He smashed the first bottle telling, “You are the reason I fight with my wife.” He smashed the second bottle, “You are the reason I don’t love my children.” He smashed the third bottle, “You are the reason I don’t have a decent job.” When he took the fourth bottle, he realized that the bottle was full and still sealed. He hesitated for only a moment and said, “You stand aside, I know you are not involved.”
Contrition must be real and sincere sorrow of heart, and not merely an external manifestation of repentance. The Old Testament Prophets laid particular stress on the necessity of hearty repentance. The Psalmist says that God despises not the "contrite heart" (Ps. I, 19), and the call to Israel was, "Return to me with all your heart . . . and rend your hearts, and not your garments" Job did penance in sackcloth and ashes because he reprehended himself in sorrow of soul.
Accepting the fact that we have sinned is the most difficult part. When God called Adam to question about his disobedience he put the blame on the Eve, and she put it on to the serpent.
During the season of Lent the church teaches us that we should accept our mistakes.
When the prodigal son came to his senses he decided “I will go to my father.” The way the father received the son was beyond his imagination. The father clasped him in his arms. He kissed him. He passed quick orders to his servants. He prepared a banquet.
Today the church tells us that when we give up our evil ways, our evil habits, our evil intentions, and our evil designs God hastens to welcome us back into the company of holy people. This is the message of lent for us.
Accept our weakness and be prepared to receive Jesus into our lives to be his instruments to radiate the love of God, the mercy of God, The compassion of God and the benevolence of God.