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3/31/19 Fourth Sunday in Lent - Fr. Damian

Today, The Church invites us on this 4th Sunday of Lent; to reflect on the teaching of Jesus about forgiveness, unconditional love, and the depth of God’s mercy in the parable of the Prodigal Son.

In our world today, there is a great quest for happiness and fulfilment. The emphasis every now and then is on having fun and enjoying life. In our Gospel narrative, this quest for happiness and satisfaction were symbolized by the prodigal son; who went out to a distant country, with the share of his father’s inheritance, in search of happiness. However, the only problem was that he thought he could find happiness in a life of promiscuity. Consequently, this led him to living with the pigs in the piggery.

One thing we should always realize, is that true happiness is not to be found outside of ourselves. Instead, true happiness lies within us, in our own hearts.

Hence, in this parable, the life of the younger or prodigal son, reminds us of our daily struggles in search of happiness. We could think of the instances of drug and alcohol abuse; marital infidelity, priestly infidelity, murders and violence, all the fraud and stealing in the workplaces, etc. Because of these and so many other things; we could say that we are like the prodigal son, living with the pigs in need of returning to our Father, the Divine Savior.

Unless we return, we won’t find happiness, that inner peace and joy we long for. Therefore, authentic happiness, inner peace and joy can only be found within, not outside of ourselves.

In addition, in this parable, we are also given a most beautiful description of our Heavenly Father. He is always ready to welcome us, his precious sons and daughters back home. Whenever we return to God, he throws a party for us. The most beautiful line for me in the parable, is what the father says to the elder son: “All I have is yours.” God is also saying to us: “All I have is yours.” I would think that this is a most beautiful promise and invitation.

However, we were not told at the end of the parable whether the elder son went into the party or not. My sisters and brothers, we also have a choice to make, shall we stay outside, or shall we go in to enjoy our Heavenly Father’s party.

A few years ago, a priest friend of mine from Poland shared with me that he was on sabbatical leave. He decided to participate in a youth retreat. In this retreat, there were about 300 participants. He found himself among young people from different parts of the world. On the second day of the retreat, he found himself sitting on one of those old steel chairs listening to testimonies.

Young people courageously came up to say things like: “I was a drug addict two years ago, I came for the retreat here, Jesus touched me. And my life completely changed.” Others said: “I was a drunkard, I was a womanizer, I was confused about life, whatever I put my hand on ended up in failure, etc.”

He said that,  at some point, he got tired of hearing those stories. He kept thinking how can this retreat help him? He thought he was really at the wrong place. As days went by that week, he knew that he was the lost son. That God invited him to experience him in his son, Jesus. Above all, that retreat he said, taught him that conversion is not merely a bad person becoming good, but any human person experiencing the love of God, the Father.

Finally, my brothers and sisters, there are many attractions in life, there are many voices saying to us: “Follow me” or “Follow your desires; and you will find happiness.” However, the best offer of happiness is from God, our Father. He is always outside the door waiting to welcome us back home; like the prodigal son’s father. As we journey through Lent, may we make effort to honor God’s invitation that is telling us: “All I have is yours.”

At every Eucharistic celebration, we receive the same invitation from Jesus, the Divine Savior telling us: “This is my Body which will be given up for you... This is the cup of my blood, it will be shed for you.” May we honor this invitation, by participating in the Trinitarian banquet of love. 

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