a husband asked his wife, "When I get mad at you, you never fight back. How do you control your anger?” She said, "I clean the toilet bowl." With a confused look on his face he asked, "How does that help?" She responded, "I use your toothbrush."
In Luke’s gospel, the parable of the “Prodigal Son” is the third of three similar parables. There is a standard pattern to stories told in threes. Everyone knows jokes about “the priest, the minister, and the rabbi” (or about people of various nationalities). The first two set up a pattern; the third breaks the pattern and provides the humor of the joke, or the point of the story. In Luke 15, which includes this Sunday’s Gospel, three back-to-back parables establish the following pattern. Someone loses something: the man loses a sheep, the woman a coin, the father his son. Each then gets it back. Then each invites neighbors and friends to celebrate. Everyone celebrates with the man who found his lost sheep; everyone celebrates with the woman who found her lost coin. But that pattern is broken in the third story. The third story has the same structure, though it is greatly elaborated. And there are other differences as well. Unlike the hapless sheep and the coin which are lost through no fault of their own, the younger son chooses a life of dissipation. The younger son, in his self-centeredness, is in no way admirable; however, he comes to his senses and repents—in this he is altogether admirable. When he returns, everyone celebrates with him and his father—everyone, that is, except the older brother! The very structure of the parables tells us that the focus of the parable is the older brother. The older brother, though obedient and faithful to the father, is called to more. He is called to a compassion which celebrates when mercy is extended even to his undeserving brother.
My dear brothers and sisters are we like the woman who was rejoicing because of the lost coin, or the shepherd who found that one sheep who wandered away or the father who rejoiced when he saw his son return back home? Or can we become like the Pharisees or the brother who are angered because they can’t understand why one would want to associate him/herself with a sinner?
It’s most likely that most of us present here this evening/morning have probably have encountered some pain in their lives because of an action of a relative or dear friend that has hurt us. It hurts us deeply when someone who we love dearly has basically “slapped us in the face.” There is a rhyme that most of us probably have learned when we were children which I find that this rhyme is totally inaccurate, “Sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never hut me.” Names do hurt and one does remain with an internal wound but my brothers and sisters when one has a wound one treats it with proper care and the same should be dealt with those internal wounds. The only way that one can do this is by the following the example of the Father in the third parable in which he accepted his son into his arms. Yes, this son did sin against his father but he loved his Son so deeply that the sin that was committed was forgiven and the Father just wanted to rejoice that his Son returned home.
There also might be some people present here who feel that God could never forgive them for their past sins but my dear brothers and sisters, I can assure you that our loving God can forgive everything and he awaits for you in the sacrament of reconciliation with open arms. He awaits to embrace you and love you deeply. Be assured that once you feel his embrace you will not leave the same person. You will be a person that has been freed and no longer has this weight is upon you.
St. Bede the Venerable says that “on hearing Christ’s voice, we open the door to receive him, as it were, when we freely assent to his promptings and when we give ourselves over to doing what must be done. Christ, since he dwells in the hearts of his chosen ones through the grace of his love, enters so that he might eat with us and we with him. He ever refreshes us by the light of his presence insofar as we progress in our devotion to and longing for the things of heaven. He himself is delighted by such a pleasing banquet.”
That my dear brothers and sisters we are called to do, to open that door and let Christ into our lives and let nothing impede us from completely loving him because when we give him the opportunity to come into our hearts than we can share in that love that he gives to us to those around us even having the possibility to love those that have hurt us and especially ourselves to realize no matter what we have done, we can become confident and exclaim with the words from the responsorial psalm this day, “a clean heart create for me, O God, and a steadfast spirit renew within me. Cast me not out from your presence and your Holy Spirit take not from me.”
Living Liturgy, p. 211