Homily for the fourth Sunday of Lent - Year C - Lk. 15:1-3 & 11-32
Father Daniel Meynen
"Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes murmured, saying, « This man receives sinners and eats with them. »
"So he told them this parable : « There was a man who had two sons; and the younger of them said to his father, 'Father, give me the share of property that falls to me.' And he divided his living between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took his journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in loose living. And when he had spent everything, a great famine arose in that country, and he began to be in want. So he went and joined himself to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would gladly have fed on the pods that the swine ate; and no one gave him anything.
"« But when he came to himself he said, 'How many of my father's hired servants have bread enough and to spare, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, « Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me as one of your hired servants. »' And he arose and came to his father. But while he was yet at a distance, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' But the father said to his servants, 'Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet; and bring the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and make merry; for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.' And they began to make merry.
"« Now his elder son was in the field; and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants and asked what this meant. And he said to him, 'Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has received him safe and sound.' But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, 'Lo, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command; yet you never gave me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your living with harlots, you killed for him the fatted calf!' And he said to him, 'Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to make merry and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.' »"
"Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes murmured, saying, « This man receives sinners and eats with them. » So he told them this parable..."
Today, the Church proposes to us that we meditate upon the parable of the prodigal son, that is, the time when Jesus told of how a son asked his father for his inheritance, spent all his money in debauchery and pleasure, and in the end came back to his father in a spirit of repentance for the faults which he had made. It is about a prodigal son, because he spent all his wealth in a reckless and scandalous manner: he badly used the possessions which his father had given him as his part of the inheritance. But it is especially about a child, about a son whose father is admirable for his goodness and kindliness, because although this son spent without measure, what he spent was precisely what the condescension of his father had freely bestowed upon him.
This prodigal son knows who his father is! He knows that he is good and tender towards all the people of his house, from the least to the greatest. He knows that his father is good, because he has experienced this goodness on several occasions. And he remembers it! "How many of my father's hired servants have bread enough and to spare." Truly, he remembers it! And we too have experienced on so many occasions the goodness and the mercy of God toward us... And we too, in the Spirit of God, remember it! The gifts which God has granted us throughout our life are as many signs of his tenderness and love towards us. And the Holy Spirit is there so that we may remember them, as if they were words of God sowed in our soul during the course of our life: "The Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you." (Jn. 14:26)
But the prodigal son does not yet really know who his father is. He does have a general idea, but he does not have a perfect conception of who he is, because he is far from his home, living in a foreign country, and memory, as good as it may be, can bring into the present only what has already passed, without being able to make present the present itself: the prodigal son remembers his father as he was in the past, but he cannot imagine what he is today, that is to say, a man who is anxious for the son who left him, and who is eager to see him return home. No, the prodigal son does not really know who his father is: the picture which he has of him is an old, incomplete, deteriorated picture...
We, too, do not have a good knowledge of who our Heavenly Father is. Christ has truly given us his Spirit, the Spirit who makes us true sons of the celestial Father, true members of Christ's Mystical Body. But since we received the Holy Spirit at the time of our baptism, very many events have occured in our life, numerous happy or unhappy events have taken place: some virtuous acts, as well as misdeeds and sins. How, then, does the true image of our Father look? Like the prodigal son, we shall discover this only when we will return home, to our house, which is that of our Father, who is in Heaven!
Let us go home! Let us go into ourselves in order to pray to God from the bottom of our heart. Let us go into our soul in order to discover there, with the eyes of faith, the door of Heaven. Let us remain there with Jesus! When we shall receive the Eucharist, let us adore Jesus in us and let us thank him for all his kindness, and especially for his presence in us. Let us ask Mary to help us to discover the true countenance of the Father who is in Jesus!