Fr. Jolly’s Homily for Sunday, September 15, 2019

24th Sunday-C

If you sit down and watch people’s actions, you will come to the conclusion that they are all seeking happiness. Every action is in fact a search for happiness. Going to the movies, eating in a restaurant or going to a party, are motivated by the desire to be happy. Sometimes the movie is not interesting, the food is not good and the party is boring. Then the search goes on to drugs, sex and alcohol and other things. It is the happiness factor that is dictating the behavior of each and everyone. Bryan Robinson’s book on “Self Esteem” speaks about the story of the man who was looking for his house key. He was on his knees right under the street light, looking here and there when a buddy of his came along and asked him what he was looking for. Being told about the lost key, his buddy also got down under the light and joined in the search. After looking for almost an hour, the buddy asked his friend if he was sure that he had lost it in this very area. “Oh, no! I lost it away over there in the dark alley”. Shocked and surprised at that answer, his buddy asked him why he was looking for it in this spot. “Oh”, he said, “because the light is better here under the street lamp”. Like this man, and the prodigal son in the gospel, many people looking for happiness in the wrong places.

If the story of the prodigal son happens today, I believe, the father had sent him to a Catholic school, and he was taught everything about his faith and morals and the young man might have practiced his faith up until his confirmation. After that he started hanging out with bad influences and because of the peer pressure, one thing led to the other and finally he found himself stuck in a very difficult and miserable situation!  The bible speaks about only one prodigal son. But unfortunately, there are too many of them in our society today! Some people knowingly ran off from family and friends and even from the love and mercy of God. Some others have a totally different story. They took one wrong turn which led them to the next and to the next and before they knew, they are far away, in darkness and alienated! They don’t know how to find their way back!

Most people who are in misery and are unhappy, they basically make few mistakes that is not helping them in any way! They blame God for their misery; they blame others for their misery; or they make excuses: poor me! Or if the situations and people were different, I would have a better chance of getting better and finding peace! If you are waiting for that perfect time and situation, unfortunately, that will never come! One thing I like about the prodigal son is that he is not blaming anyone for his situation. He is not blaming his father for allowing him to have the inheritance. He is not blaming God! “Why hasn’t God taken this sin away from me? I have been struggling with it for two months, two years etc. Why is this happening to me? Why don’t these people like me and help me? Why do I have troubles here, troubles there?”

This son did not make excuses. Bible says, then he “came to himself”. This is the key:  A man cannot be saved unless he comes to himself. What does this mean? In saving our souls, we must know two things. One is to know God, and other is to know oneself. The two are learned in parallel. If you learn only of God, you will be filled with pride, and your soul will be paralyzed. If you know only about your sins and your unworthiness and know little about God, you will be filled with hopelessness and fear, or escapism, and your soul will also be paralyzed, unable to do good. But if you learn of yourself and God at the same time, God will reveal Himself and self-knowledge also, within you. Then you will believe in the depths of your soul that you are a great sinner, but you will nonetheless say to yourself with confidence,  “God will receive my repentance!’ and you will see the situation you are in, and you will want to be better, and you will know that you CAN become better!

At that time that person must say exactly what the younger son said. He said, “I will arise and I will go to my father. I will make an effort. I will not only talk about my sins and lament about them. I will arise and make a great effort.”

And then the son realized how far away he was. He was in a far country. And he still had to travel a long way, even until his father would see him, from a long way off. So that was a great struggle. That is what we must do. We pile sin upon sin in our soul. Everything that we pile onto our soul we must carefully take off, one brick at a time. So the more we pile on ourselves, the more difficult it is, and the further away we are, and the further we must travel back. But this younger son was great of soul, because he struggled back.

What was his attitude? It was not absolutely correct, but his misunderstanding was corrected by his father later. He went and said “I will go to my father and say I have sinned against heaven and earth, and I am not worthy to be called your son”. So far, he is absolutely correct. But then he said, “Make me as one of thy hired servants,” and God will not do that! That’s not our God! He will make us friends.

So, arise! Today, decide to arise. And when you fall down tomorrow, get up out of the dust and continue to walk. And if you cannot walk, then crawl, but keep going towards God. The Father said “All I have is yours.” “all I have is yours.” During every Mass we receive the same invitation from Jesus, “This is my Body which will be given up for you…this is the cup of my blood, it will be shed for you.” Let us go into the house and enjoy God’s party.