The Prodigal Father

As a teen-ager, I was chomping at the bit to leave home and get on my own, thinking this is the way I can do what I want. I thought I was quite capable of ordering my own life!  My father, the practical one,  encouraged me to get a job. He set up four envelopes – church, bills, savings account and personal use. Each time I cashed my check, I had to place a percentage [mutually agreed upon] in each of the first three envelopes. Soon I realized it wasn’t as easy as it looked! By the time I filled the first three envelopes, I realized how expensive living was ! So in reading our Gospel this Sunday, I can identify with the son who is chomping at the bit to leave home.

The Gospel begins with the Pharisees and Scribes complaining that Jesus welcomes sinners – how little do they understand God! So Jesus tells a parable.  When the son comes to his senses and returns home, he experiences a merciful father who clothes him in dignity and honors him with a feast.

This parable reminds us of the mercy of God. This parable reminds us that God longs to embrace and celebrate with us. Coming to understand mercy and forgiveness from God’s perspective changes our attitudes about ourselves and others.

Sinners, though we are, our Father longs to embrace and celebrate with us. Let us recall God’s graciousness and rejoice. Receiving God’s forgiveness and mercy and offering the same to one another is our journey from ” Ashes to Easter.”

The Unexpected Mercy of God

My father was a very patient man.  One year he took a peach stone and planted it in a small pot.  The first year yielded nothing. The second year – a small stick that really looked dead.  He then transplanted that “dead stick” into his garden. He fertilized it, watered it, cared for that “dead stick”. We asked him why spend the energy. Each time, my father said, “Give it another year.” Today, 10 years later, that “dead stick” gives us great peaches.

As my father was patient with that “dead stick”, how much more is God patient with us?  Our Gospel today gives us the parable of the fig tree. In this parable, Jesus reveals the patience of God with us, despite our slowness to repent, despite our slowness of letting go of our narrowness of life. How merciful God is. This is God’s mercy – to take what is almost dead and coax it to new life!

Our Lenten journey, our work of repentance is to turn sinfulness toward God’s transforming mercy.

Jesus offers us a challenge – “bear fruit” or “be cut down”.  Our encouragement – God is ever patient, God is ever merciful. God does not gives up on us.