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Fourth Sunday of Lent,C.March 25,2001.Lk.15:1-3,11-32

4th Sunday of Lent,C,Mar.25,2001

Near the end of his life, Russian writer Dostoyevsky called his family to his bedside and asked his wife to read to their children the parable of the Prodigal Son. Then he told his children: “My children, never forget what you have heard. Have absolute faith in God and never despair of his pardon. I love you dearly, but my love is nothing compared with the love of God for you.” Today all the readings from the Scriptures including the parable of the Prodigal Son speak to us about the unparalleled love of God.

The first reading from the Old Testament speaks of a new beginning in the life of Israel. The old days of God taking care of all their needs was over. They are now brought to a new land that was promised to their forefathers. They have to be ready for a new beginning in their lives.

It is in a way an inspiring call to every one who believes in God that there is a new opportunity, a new chance to begin anew their lives. Failures, weaknesses and sins should not deter one from the effort for a new beginning. As St. Paul reminds us in today’s reading: “ Whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; new things have come.” For us, this Lent gives a new opportunity to start again. We may have failed in our commitments, we may have offended God grievously, but it is not too late for us to come back to God and deepen our closeness to Him.

In today’s reading from the Gospel Jesus very beautifully explains what God’s attitude to sinners is through a parable the loveliness and the power of which have never been lost though innumerable retellings.

Jesus was accused of moving with sinners, dining with them and conversing with them. The attitude of the society was to ostracize the sinners and never to have any dealings with them. There is no chance for those who were considered sinners to come back and regain their lost honor. Their company was avoided or they were stoned to death. Into that brutal world, Jesus brings in rivers of mercy, compassion and forgiveness.

Through the parable of the Prodigal Son which in fact reveals the unbounded prodigality of God’s love, Jesus shows how God looks at sinners.

The Father waits for his prodigal son to return and to accept His unconditional love. The son returns with his voice choked with apologies and expressions of deep repentance. But the Father does not wait to hear the end of the story nor does he want his son to grovel in the misery of expressing his apologies and excuses. The Father’s heart was moved with love and compassion as he felt how much his son was deprived of his love in those years. He wants to bring his son to the same level of enjoying his unconditional love that he had enjoyed before.

Jesus wants to show us that God our father will treat us with much more love than was shown by the human father in this parable. As one spiritual writer has put it: “This parable distills and sums up the whole meaning of the Gospel….. It tells us more about God, about the real meaning of God, than an entire course in theology”.

What does, then, this parable tells us? It does not mean that our sins are frivolous and will have no consequence. No. The burden of the sin is shown by the repentance expressed by the son, but what Jesus reveals here is that God’s love is overwhelming and limitless.

All of us are sinners. We fail, fall and stumble. Instead of remaining where we are, instead of keeping the wounds of sin in our hearts, we have to return to the great healer, the consoler of human hearts and receive his love in our lives. Some of us carry the burden of sin our hearts, some of us are unwilling to give up the path of sin, some of us may try to justify our actions that have hurt God as well as our neighbor. But that should not deter us from coming to the Lord. Unseen by us, he is waiting for us, watching every tremulous step that we take in his direction.

Today we shall say to the Lord: “ Jesus, I believe in you. I repent of all the ways that I have hurt you and those around me. Wipe away my sins and fill me with your love.”

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