Surprise Party

prodigalWe humans tend to act out of a contractual frame of mind, that is, we give with expectations of equal return. For example, an expensive gift requires an expensive gift in return; or, if we invite friends to dinner, we expect to be invited back. Forgiveness and mercy, however, must arise from a different frame of mind because they are purely gratuitous. The embrace of a merciful father is undeserved yet fully and freely given. [Living Liturgy 2010]

While we may call this parable “The Prodigal Son’, in fact it is about a prodigal father. It is the father who first reaches out and then puts aside all convention and lavishly receives the son back into the family. This is how God acts toward us. This parable reminds us that God offers us much more.

If we choose to die to self and return to God, we are greeted with forgiveness and feasting. We are welcomed back and transformed sharing in divine life.

Receiving God’s forgiveness and mercy and offering the same to another is how we pass from Wednesday ashes to Easter feasting.

Musical Reflection



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.”