Homily for 24th Sunday in Ordinary time year C 2013
A week ago, Pope Francis made news again by calling an Italian woman telling her that he will baptize the child personally as a token of the woman’s courageous decision not to abort the child even if the father “who unknown to her, was already married with a child and who demanded she terminate the pregnancy.”[i] Ana Romano wrote to the pope about her concern because she had ‘no one else to turn to’. Unexpectedly, the pope rang her and assured her she is not alone. She said:
‘‘He reassured me and said a child was a gift from God, a sign of Divine Providence and that I would never be left alone. He said that as Christians we should never be afraid. ‘He told me I had been very brave and strong for my unborn child. I told him that I wanted to baptise the baby when it was born but I was afraid as I was divorced and a single mother but he said he would be my spiritual father and he would baptise my baby.”
It is just amazing to see right before us, in our day and age, the attitude of the Father of the prodigal son that is still operating actively in so many of us like that of Pope Francis. On this Sunday, we are reflecting on the gospel about the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the prodigal son. But for the purpose of today, I’d focus more on the story of the prodigal son because this speaks so highly about us, about our tendency to go on our own, to take matters into our hands and to misuse our freedom.
We might have heard this gospel of the prodigal son so many times. Many times we might have identified ourselves with the younger son or the older son or the Father in the story, but this gospel speaks loudly more on the one basic attitude of our God– that of loving us unconditionally. He loves us so much that he’d take all the trouble, all the risk and all that it takes just to show us that he cares.
How did he show this?
Three things from the gospel:
First, he gave to his son the share of his property, with no strings attached. He didn’t say: ‘I’m not dead yet, and you already ask for your share, you’re killing me. Okey, I give this to you, but don’t come back to me when things don’t go right with you.’ But it wasn’t the case because our God is a generous giver. This is the beauty of our God. He gives without counting the cost.
In more ways than one, God has given us a share of his property, the life we have, the air we breathe, the food we eat, the beauty of nature, the people we can love and can love us back, the salvation we need, and million other share of his property.
How many of these gifts are we taking for granted? How many of these gifts are we wasting?
How grateful are we to God for all these gifts?
Second, He is always waiting for us and welcomes us back with no words: ‘I told you so’ or ‘Have I not reminded you?’ We heard in the gospel, ‘When the Father saw him coming’- this implies that that the father has been waiting for his return. The father was expecting him to return anytime, so he keeps on looking for him and any sign of him. ‘Then he ran towards his son and hugged him.’ This sounds like a very awkward situation- an old man running towards his son when it should be the other way around. But God is like this. He is willing to take the ridiculous step just to show us we are lovable and worth saving. He did this on the cross. He took the risk and he didn’t count how much it cost him to love us. If we can only put this truth in our mind and heart.
Every Saturday, except today, I come here to hear confession. Even if there is no one who comes, or sometimes one, I would still sit there in the confessional- because as a confessor, I am re- presenting God waiting for any lost son or daughter of his to come and reconcile with him. If we don’t go to confession though, there is an underlying reason for this, maybe, we are tired of asking forgiveness. But we must not get tired of asking forgiveness. As Pope Francis in his First Angelus message as Pope would urge us: “Never forget this: The Lord never gets tired of forgiving us. It is we, who get tired of asking for forgiveness.”
Third, he goes out and searches for the one lost and tell us: ‘All I have is yours.’ Sometimes we failed to hear this beautiful assurance of our God because we can’t be contented with all we have. We sometimes wish to get everything we want. But this is not to be the case. Life is not about hoarding stuff. It is not having some things or many things that can make us alive. It is loving what we have even if we don’t have much or if it doesn’t cost much.
Such is our God. But he needs us to let him be God in our lives. What can we do?
Let us be thankful for having a God like him- God who eats with us, walks with us, and even dies for us, sinners we may be. Let us also be grateful to all the gifts we have been given even those gifts that we didn’t ask or pray for. And like the prodigal son, let us strive to come back home to our God by humbling ourselves, in and through the sacrament of reconciliation and penance. Amen.