4th Sunday of Lent- C (Luke 15:1-3, 11-32)
Almost a year ago all the leading news papers published the conversion of an Italian lap dancer. Anna Nobili started dancing at the nightclubs of Milan at the age of 18. When she was 25 years of old, one day, she made a trip to Assisi with her mother and during that trip she had a “mystical experience”. That was the beginning of her “long process of conversion” which eventually led her taking the vows as a member of a religious order namely the Worker Sisters of the Holy House of Nazareth. All the leading media published her story with the title: a former Italian lap dancer who became a nun after leading a life of “sex and alcohol” has turned to teaching “sacred dances” instead of “pleasing men”. She dedicated her life “completely to God, after being regenerated by the beauty of the Christian faith”. She says “I understood that I pleased men; but it was an empty life, a sinful one.”Today I dance for God and I am happy”. Today she is reborn and transfigured. We all have heard this beautiful saying ‘Saints have a past and sinners have a future. In the Parable of the Prodigal Son the prodigal son has a past. But he became a new and a regenerated person as he returns to his father asking for mercy. Indeed, every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.
We really don’t have an idea of how great God’s mercy is. As human beings it is so difficult for us to understand that God can forgive us so easily and so totally. We make the mistake of thinking that God is like us and so we cannot understand God’s mercy. When the younger son was on the way back home his father was outside waiting for him. His father ran to him, held him in his arms and kissed him. That is what God is like, always longing and waiting for our return.
Let me ask you a question. If someone raped and killed your daughter and then repented, would you attend the party given by God in honor of the repentant rapist-murderer? If you are a normal human being, you would grow “angry at this and would not go in”. By God’s grace, there are many repentant rapists, murderers, blasphemers, persecutors, and men and women formerly filled with arrogance. God the Father is constantly throwing parties for all His returned prodigal children, and He invites all their victims and their families to come to the celebration.
The son who left his house is traditionally called “the prodigal son.” What about the elder son who stayed at home? He said that he had slaved for his father and had not disobeyed any of his father’s orders. This older son should also be called a “prodigal son,” for he was angry at his father’s forgiveness and mercy given to his younger brother. Prodigals are not only drunkards and fornicators but also the angry and the unforgiving people. Prodigals are not only those who leave home but also those who stay home — motivated by anything other than love. Prodigals are not only the disobedient but also the obedient who go by only the letter of the law. Are you a good, upstanding, churchgoing prodigal? Unforgiveness, not being grateful, not loving enough, not repenting are all the telling indications of being a prodigal in Christian disguise. Therefore, come to your senses today. Decide to forgive everyone, seek others forgiveness and repent of your sins. Come back home in your heart, even if you are already home geographically. When you come to your senses, you will find that you too are a prodigal, and the feast and the forgiveness are also for you. There you will see your brethren, there you will see God.
In the movie The Passion of the Christ, Peter goes to Mary after he denies Jesus and confesses to Mary. Judas does not. Peter goes to Mary and confesses his sin. Why? Because he loved Jesus so much and after denying Jesus he was so sorry. The more we love the more we are sorry for our sins. Judas was too proud to go to Mary to confess after he betrayed Jesus. But, how differently his life would have been if he left his pride behind and confessed? Today, God our loving Father throws out party for all His prodigal sons and daughters. Let us, therefore, come to our senses, confess our sins and be restored and regenerated. Our pride would have us conceal our sins like Judas but we remember that saints have a past, sinners have a future.
Who are you in this story? Are you a prodigal, the rebellious son, lost and far from God? Are you the self-righteous Pharisee, no longer capable of rejoicing when a sinner returns to God? Today we pray that we might be like the forgiving Father. Today we pray that we will be like the repented and returned son.