Homily for the 4th Sunday of Lent Year C
Theme: COMING BACK HOME
By: Fr. Gerald Musa
Homily for Sunday March 27 2022
One day I was in the parish office and a boy stepped in with trembling feet and a tinge of anxiety written all over his face. I asked him to sit down and then he began to tell me the story of his life and how he had left his parents for several months. He had taken away some precious items from his family house including the jewelries of his mother, the shoes and expensive phones of his wealthy father. He sold these items and got a lot of money and hung out with his friends to spend the money. He said to me, “Father, I want to go back home, but I need a priest to accompany me.” I drove with him to his family house and we met a furious Father who would not let him into the house. The Father said, “I am totally disappointed in this boy. I have invested so much money to give him the best education, but he has thrown all my efforts to the wind. I pleaded with the Father to let him in and give him another chance. The Father refused to budge. I took the boy to stay with a family friend, who welcomed him and catered for him for several weeks until his Father was ready to take him back again. I had to keep working on the Father until he calmed down and accepted his son back.
There are parents who have suffered disappointment from their children and it is heart breaking when you work so hard to raise children that are not living up to their potential. You get confused about what to do, but we remember the fact that in every household there are neither perfect parents nor perfect children. There is so much to learn from God the Father whose mercy is boundless. We see this mercy clearly demonstrated upon the people of Israel when he delivered them from bondage and disgrace in the land of Egypt. In his mercy he listened to their cry, despite their sinful behaviours (cf. Joshua 3:9-12). Jesus gives a story that vividly illustrates how God receives a sinner who decides to come back home. He told the story of a man who had two children, and the younger one asked the Father to give him his share of the property that belongs to him. The younger son’s demand was contrary to the Jewish tradition which says, “Let neither son nor wife, neither brother nor friend, have power over you as long as you live. While breath of life is still in you, let no one take your place” (Sirach 33:20-21).
The younger son after he received his share of the Father’s property went away to a far country where he squandered the wealth in loose living. The more he satisfied his bodily hunger, the more spiritually hungry he became; the more assorted drinks he gulped down his throat, the more thirsty his soul became. He acquired a crowd of friends within a short time – but there were no real friends who stood by him when his finances began to deplete. Afterwards famine began in the land and the young man was starving to death. He managed to get a menial dirty job – tending pigs to keep body and soul together. Life became unbearable and he started planning how to go back home and tender his apologies to his father, saying: “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me as one of your hired servants.” He summoned courage to go back home and was not sure how whether his father would open the door for him. He was pleasantly surprised by the Father’s warm and joyful reception. Ordinarily one would expect the Father to ask the son to account for his life during the years he was in a far country, but he did not. The Father was so excited about the son’s return that he showered gifts upon him. He put a new robe on him as a mark of honour, put a ring on his finger to demonstrate that his authority as a son is restored and put sandals on his feet to show that he is not a slave who goes on bare feet, but a free man who can enjoy the rights and privileges, like any of the children in the house.
This parable is popularly known as the parable of the prodigal son. If the word prodigal means lavish, abundant or extravagant, then the parable could as well be called the parable of the prodigal father. It is true that the son lavished the money of his father in his loose life and it is also true that the father lavished his love in receiving his son back and in the extravagant celebration he organised. So, both the father and the son were extravagant and prodigal in different ways. The elder son was visibly angry to see an extravagant mercy shown to a prodigious brother. The elderly son in the story represents people who are self-righteous and arrogant and who have zero tolerance for sinners. The father explained the reason for this joyful reception: “This son of mine was dead and is alive again; was lost and is now found (Luke 15:24).
The prodigal son came back home to have a new beginning and this is what the Apostle Paul tries to explain when he says, if anyone comes back home (to God’s mercy), he is a new creation. The prodigal son represents sinners, the poor and outcasts who continually make an attempt to come to experience the mercy and love of God.
There are people who have gone far away from God and are looking for a home to come back to. A home is not simply a building, but a place you can run to when things are not going too well. Na’omi went back to her home in Bethlehem when she lost her husband and two sons (Ruth 1:19-22). Gomer the wife of Hosea, went back home to her husband after every act of her waywardness. Whenever, life becomes too difficult we think of finding a home and people where we can be received without judgment, where we can regain our peace; where we feel welcome and where we can begin afresh again. Home is a place we go back to when the world becomes too hot and unbearable. The prodigal son came back to a home where the household had a divided opinion about him. The elder brother despised him and constantly reminded him about his careless past life and his father loved him and gave him hope that he can open a new chapter in his life.
How do we accept people who have failed in their efforts to be good? How do we receive people who are battling with one scandal or the other? How do we welcome people whom the society has judged and thrown into thrash bins? The season of lent challenges us to return to God in whom we find peace. To go back home is to reconcile with God the merciful father and to restore our broken relationship with other people. Paul challenges us to “Be reconciled to God.”
4th Sunday of Lent Year C