Welcomed Back by the Father
4th Sunday of Lent
Most of us would feel at ease to encounter persons who are welcoming and accommodating. These are types of persons who by the nature of their work performs this task. There are also those who are naturally born with this attitude or have grown up with this trait in the family. For us Salesians, there is the ‘family spirit’ which is a distinguishing mark in our ministry. In our place and through us, people are welcomed especially the young. They are received as they are with warmth and cordiality. This is an important mark that Saint John Bosco has left to us. Many of our young people are transformed because of this pervading spirit. Some of them even became saints and are placed as examples by the Church as they live this spirit that dominated the Oratory. This ambiance and environment is helpful that leads to transformation.
The parable of the Prodigal Son and the Merciful Father is one of the well-loved stories of by Jesus in the Gospels. Many have written about it and reflected on it. This Gospel episode gives us a glimpse into the loving and merciful heart of God. God is indeed ‘rich in mercy’. ‘His love is everlasting.’ We, too, have a taste of this mercy from God in our life. He is ever there to welcome us back whenever we feel lost due to sin. The Sacrament of Reconciliation was established by Jesus to be a means for us to be reunited with God and people. The Father always awaits for our return to his embrace. Pope Francis has shared to all of us that, “God never tires of forgiving us; we are the ones who tire of seeking his mercy.” He remains faithful to the love once given. He comes forward both to welcome the returning sinner and to invite the brother or sister who has a hard time to welcome his lost brother or sister to share in the joy of forgiveness and his return.
The prodigal son dared to go back to the father because of his need for him. After he has used up all the resources he had, he realized that nothing can compare being with his father. He had to go back. We, like the prodigal son, are also longing for the Father’s embrace. Sometimes, we look for this comfort in the world, things, pleasures, gadgets, persons, etc. only to conclude that these has never filled us up. There must be something more than them.
The elder brother, who was with the father always and have not gone astray was envious. He thought he was not loved by the father but it was not so. His father loves him as he is. He was not only aware of this love which was always there. We, too, in our quest for God would at times feel that we are not accompanied. We think that we are alone and never guided. Hopelessness is the nearest temptation for us. Yet in all our efforts, we are not left behind by the Lord. He is ever there for us as we search for Him. This is not a hide-and-seek game. He never hid, we just did not see Him. We did not open our eyes more to have a glimpse of Him.
This season of Lent invites us to be ever aware of God’s loving mercy and forgiveness. He is always ready to welcome us back to His embrace even in our sinfulness. He calls us to seek Him, to know Him, and to love Him. The Church encourages us to come back to the Father through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Humility is a key virtue here. Only when we have this virtue will we be able to acknowledge our sinfulness and approach the Lord. Those who have been welcomed and forgiven cannot but also share this life-changing experience with everyone. Our Catechism puts it, “Those who with God’s help have welcomed Christ’s call and freely responded to it are urged by love of Christ to proclaim the Good News everywhere in the world” (Catechism of the Catholic Church prologue).
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