Lk 15:1-3, 11-32:The Parable of the Lost Son

Human experiences teach us:

  • That the people who hurt us often and hurt us the most are people who are so close to us. That is why there is a song entitled, “Why do we always hurt the one we love?”
  • That the people we find the hardest to forgive are also people who are so close to us. People as such we call them traitors and ungrateful. It has been said that one’s best friends is  one’s worst enemies.
  • That the people who are deeply hurt or aggrieved have the tendency to self-pity, anger, hatred, resentment and revenge. Given all these, it is hard to forgive, much harder, to forgive constantly. Indeed Alexander Pope is correct when he said, “To err is human, to forgive is divine.”

If your heart is filled with anger, hatred and revenge and you  find it hard to forgive those who hurt or offended you, then, the message of today’s Gospel is for you:  love the repentant sinner by forgiving him while hate the sin;  hope for repentance of sinner and celebrate the redemption of even one sinner.

Going back to the parable we just heard, the younger son’s request was impudent and disrespectful.  Typically, sons received their inheritance on the death of their father.  Sometimes a father might decide to distribute part or all of the inheritance early so that he might retire, but the initiative is the father’s—not the son’s.  In the event that a son received his inheritance prior to the father’s death, the son was expected to stay at home to provide for his parents in their old age.  That was part of what it meant to “honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you” (Exod 20:12).

This younger son was guilty of:  (1) assuming the initiative that belonged to his father  (2) treating his father as if he were dead  (3) ignoring his obligation to his parents in their old age and (4) breaking the family relationship by leaving.  Such conduct was shameful in that culture.  A father would feel ashamed to have raised such a son.  Neighbors would raise their eyebrows and thank God not to have such sons themselves.

Despite of what had happened the father has forgiven his repentant impudent and disrespectful son who deeply offended and hurt him. The father in the parable represents God the Father who  is “gracious and merciful, slow to anger, rich in kindness, and relenting in punishment” (Jl 2:12-13) while the prodigal son represents the worst sinner who returns to the Father with contrite and humble spirit.  Just as God the Father has forgiven us in Christ when were sinners and when we were still His enemies let us also forgive those who has hurt and offended us.

Why do we need to forgive?

  • “The only way to peace is forgiveness. To accept and give forgiveness makes possible a new quality of rapport between men, interrupts the spiral of hatred and revenge and breaks the chains of evil which bind the heart of rivals” (Pope John Paul II,  Homily at Mass for First Sunday of Lent, “Day of Pardon”, March 12, 2000 and Angelus Message, March 12, 2000).
  • “Forgiveness saves the expense of anger, the high cost of hatred, and the waste of energy” (E. C. McKenzie).
  • Forgiveness of one another is a condition for authentic worship of the Father. “If you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Mt. 5:23-24; cf. 6:14-15; Mk 11:25; CCC 2841; cf. CFC 2187).
  • Man must forgive in order to be forgiven by God. The parable is a comment upon the fifth petition of the Lord’s prayer, “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us” (Mt 6:12).  Those, and those only, may expect to be forgiven of God, who forgive their brethren “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will you Father forgive your trespasses” (Mt 6:14, 15). As James had it, “For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy” (James 2:13).

“Because you are God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with heartfelt mercy, with kindness, humility, meekness and patience.  Bear with one another; forgive whatever grievances you have against one another. Forgive as God has forgiven you in Christ” (Col 3:12f). Forgive and “so be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect ” (Mt 5: 44-48).

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Word Alive

Story of Walter

By FR. BEL R. SAN LUIS, SVD

March 14, 2010, 11:58am

Once there was a man named Walter. He owned a littele variety store and, for some years in his own small way, he extended credit to poor people, helping them to get started in life. His town mates had all praises for the benevolent man.

Because of his generosity, the good Lord rewarded him. One day, Walter struck it rich when he won the lotto.

* * *

With all his overflowing wealth, he gave up his little business and bought a palatial house in an upscale subdivision. He enjoyed all the material comforts and amenities in life. Catapulted to the top of the social ladder, his lifestyle changed and sadly forgot all about his simple spirit and, charitable works of helping the poor. He had himself revitalized and rejuvenated. (Dunno if he went to Dr. Belo or Dr. Calayan).

* * *

The new Walter went on good times, spending money freely. He met a beautiful young woman and asked her for a date. But that evening before they could go out, a thunderstorm came up.

While crossing the street to meet his date, Walter was struck by a lightning bolt and he died instantly.

* * *

In the next life, Walter lamented, “After all those years of hard work, I was just trying to enjoy myself a little, Lord. Why did you do that to me?” And God said to him, “Oh, was that you Walter? I didn’t recognize you!”

Walter was so rejuvenated, so changed not only in looks but also his lifestyle and values that God could not recognize him.

* * *

LESSON. The Lord is surely not against getting rich or rejuvenating oneself. Nor is God against enjoying life now and then. Rather it’s a reminder about the danger of wealth. In the case of Walter, he forgot his original goodness of helping people.

* * *

Ask yourself: What’s my attitude towards money? Am I so preoccupied with it that I have no more time for God, say, in prayer? Am I so obsessed that I have to cheat or do immoral ways, like operating illegal gambling, trafficking in dangerous drugs or stealing?

Am I so attached to my possessions that I have become selfish and insensitive to the plight of the poor around me?

* * *

ACTION: In this Lenten season, I’ll show that money is not my God by allotting time for spiritual matters and doing more acts of charity.

* * *

THE LIGHTER SIDE. St. Peter to new arrival at Heaven’s gate: And what good deeds did you do during your lifetime?

New applicant: Well, I once gave an old beggar a R10. St. Peter: Anything else? New applicant: I’m afraid no more St. Peter: Well, here’s your R10 back – you can go to Hell!

* * *

Young boy praying in church: Give us this day our Daily Bread… with ham, egg and cheese, French fries, salad on the side. Priest passing by: Iho, are you praying or ordering?

* * *

7 LAST WORDS. The SVD Social Communications will present the “7 Last Words” on Good Friday, April 2, 2010 from 12-3 p.m. over ABS-CBN.

We sent out letters soliciting donations and advertisements to help us defray the costs of TV airtime and production. May we have your generous response?

* * *

Please send your help payable to Mission Communications Foundation, Inc. at: Christ the King Seminary, 1101 E. Rodriguez Blvd., 1099 Quezon City. For inquiries, call MCFI at Christ the King Seminary (cf. tel. directory) or e-mail: belsvd@yahoo.com.

* * *

GOD BLESS – the latest donors: Dr. Montano Ramos Family; Lilian Villanueva; Dr. Thelma Clemente; Dr. Buena Alegre; Gene Liangco; Nely Uy; Liwanag Deveza; Dr. Aurelia Leus; Joey Uy; Amy Ty; Warren Family; Susie Lañada-Papa; Janet Chua; Anonymous.

http://www.mb.com.ph/articles/247644/story-walter

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MANILA, Philippines—Do you know why the government recently granted discounts to senior citizens? Because someone pointed out that, when it comes to food purchases, senior citizens are prohibited from eating many kinds of food anyway; on transportation, they can’t use it much anyway; on groceries, they can’t carry much of those anyway; on movies, they have bad eyes anyway; and on hospitals, they don’t have much time left anyway.

* * *

In contrast, in today’s Gospel about the prodigal son (Lk. 15, 1-3; 11-32), the Father’s love and forgiveness are without conditions and “anyways.” The loving Father’s generosity is gracious, total and unconditional. Many of us claim to give and forgive, but much of our giving and forgiving is often so conditional and self-serving.

* * *

Did you notice how all of a sudden, politicians seeking elective positions have become so giving and accommodating in terms of time, money and truckloads of promises? But this is only for a while, because once they are elected, they will be so busy in getting the return of their investment. They are giving now in order that they will get more later.

* * *

God’s love for us is beyond transactional. God gives us more than we deserve, and He gets from us much less than He deserves. God is generous and merciful, while we are wanting yet exacting. In so far as we strive to be generous, and go beyond justice toward mercy, we too become like God.

* * *

In the end, it is God’s mercy that will save us. Our so-called merits will not be enough to transact for our salvation. That is why, in humility, every day we earnestly and sincerely pray: “Lord, I am a sinner, have mercy, have pity on me.”

* * *

Humanly speaking, we give and love “if . . .” But God loves us “even if . . .” Our loving, giving and forgiving are very conditional. As we continue to receive so much unconditional love from God, may we too learn to become less transactional and more unconditional in our loving, giving and forgiving.

* * *

I am a grateful recipient of God’s unconditional love. I know and believe that I am loved not so much because of, but in spite of me. How many times have I disobeyed God, yet He continues to manifest His constant love! Presumptuous? I say it again: It is better to be presumptuous of God’s love than to doubt God’s love. If you have not experienced what it is like to sin and be forgiven, to be broken and be made whole again, then, you have not really experienced God’s tremendous love.

* * *

We insult God when we sin. We insult Him more if we doubt that He loves us and forgives us again and again. God’s love and forgiveness are greater and broader than we can imagine. Let us not limit God’s love. Instead, let us celebrate His goodness and love.

* * *

Remember me writing some Sundays ago about exit from this world and entrance into eternity? My very good friends lawyer Manuel and Norma Pastrana had a sudden exit from this world, when their house in Cebu City was gutted by fire at dawn last Thursday, March 11. It was such a shock to me. Indeed, we don’t know the time nor the hour. The Season of Lent reminds us again and again that we are dust and to dust we will return.

* * *

When tragedy strikes, there are many things we cannot explain or understand. At such moments, all we need to do is to accept, surrender, trust and hold on to God’s master plan, and believe in His unconditional love. “Lord, I don’t understand but I believe you have a plan.”

* * *

I was in Roxas City recently to celebrate the annual Memorial Mass for my classmate Fr. Antonio Barriatos, SVD who died as a missionary in Paraguay in 1994. I do this in gratitude to his family who offered Father Tony for the missions with no ifs and no buts. I salute the many countless and faceless generous people around us who live out their faith in very simple but concrete ways.

* * *

We will be in Alaminos City, Pangasinan for a Healing Mass at the St. Joseph Cathedral on Wednesday, March 17, 2010. Together with the people and with Bishop Marlo Peralta, DD, Bishop of Alaminos, we will pray for the healing of Pangasinan and our motherland especially for the coming May elections. And, we will also pray for rain, much needed rain to come upon us, soon.

* * *

Please remember one often unnoticed but significant character in the Parable of the Prodigal Son—the fattened calf! Why, what did it do? What was its fault that it had to be slaughtered? It just happened to be there when the prodigal son came home. Oh well, if you experience being feasted upon, or being blamed, or misjudged, console yourself with the thought it all happened once to an innocent fattened calf.

* * *

A moment with the Lord:

Lord, help me to love like you, with no “ifs” and no “buts.” Amen.

http://opinion.inquirer.net/inquireropinion/columns/view/20100313-258495/No-ifs-no-buts

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