by Br. CJ Vales [cjm]
The Gospel reading this Sunday is one of the most popular short stories of all time. We all know it as the story of “The Prodigal Son”. But many say that is better be called the story of “The Loving Father”. That is why after having read it, I just want to remain in silence, looking up the sky and reflect on the image of the father in the story. I seeing my father hugging me every time I visited him, or hugging me after a long and tiring journey or hugging me after I commit a serious mistake in my life. The Father is the main character and real hero in the story of today’s gospel. This is also a powerful story that speaks clearly to us as we observe the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. As the Father is merciful, we must be merciful also.
On the other hand, today is Laetare Sunday. Laetare means “rejoice” or “be joyful”. We will notice that all our today's readings are all about the joy of redemption.
Our first reading talks about the Jewish people, as they ate their first meal in the promised land after 40 years of journeying. How much joy they felt as they were eating the produce of the land the Lord had promised and in the presence of the Lord. Also, in the second reading which St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, he reminds us that we have been redeemed, reconciled, saved, forgiven, washed clean by Jesus “who did not know sin” (2 Cor 5:21). The Gospel also talks about joy – the joy of the Father and the younger son. Jesus highlights the joy of the Father after the return of one of his beloved sons. He waited is for so long. Also, we see the joy of the younger son, who had taken his inheritance and left for a far away land, where he had a good time for a while, spending all his money, but then fell on hard times. That’s when he realized his mistakes and felt sorry. He returned home and his father welcomed him with open arms, not as a servant or slave which is all he thinks he deserves but as a son, who has come back to life.
Let us experience the joy of having a Father, a God who is willing to accept us, to forgive us in the Sacrament of Penance. Let us encounter Jesus in this sacrament because Jesus loves us as His Father loves him. His love, according to St. John Eudes, is a sanctifying love which destroys sins in our souls in order to establish the kingdom of God. Let us also go and encounter Christ in the Eucharist – in the celebration of the Holy Mass – where we experience the joy of Christ’s love. We too are called to experience the joy of the people of Israel, the joy of the prodigal son, and the joy of the loving father; so that we may “taste and see the goodness of the Lord”, as the psalms says.