The Prodigal Son — 4th Sunday in Lent—Year C

If today happens to be your first time coming back to church in a long time, then take today’s gospel as a sign. God our Father is incredibly merciful and He welcomes you home with a loving embrace.

But most of us here, I suspect, came to Mass last week, and the week before that, because you always come every week. If so, then you probably hear this familiar parable of the Prodigal (that is, squandering) Son and wonder where you fit into the story. When you look at yourself I bet you can honestly say that you’re not living a life of great dissipation like the younger son, and the idea of a sinner being reconciled with God makes you genuinely happy, not bitter, like the older son or the Pharisees. So what does this story have to teach those of us who are doing a lot more right than we’re doing wrong?

First, let’s look at the younger, prodigal son. He goes to his father and says, “Father, give me the share of your estate that should come to me.” Here, he is asking for his inheritance while his father is still alive. He is basically saying, “I don’t want to share my life with you,” and then he demonstrates it a few days later by setting off to a distant country. There he squanders his inheritance on a life of dissipation, but after he has freely spent everything, he finds himself in dire need. What he thought would make him happy left him disappointed in the end.

Sure, we’re not professional, all-star sinners like the prodigal son, but we act like him in many little ways in our daily lives. The prodigal son asked his father for something which was not his and which he had no right to take (while his father is still alive.) Whenever we live as if our lives were our own, as if our lives did not come from God and do not belong to God, our Father, we say to Him, “I don’t want to share my life with you.”

Though our small and venial sins only hinder or wound our relationship with God, in every sin we turn our backs and set off for awhile to a distant country. Whenever we insist upon it, God permits us to freely spend our lives in squandering ways, in ways which we think will make us happy but which disappointing us in the end. When we return to our Father, He forgives our sins and welcomes us back, but you and I must learn to stop trying to live our lives without sharing them completely with God.

Why are we afraid of the idea of doing what God wants us to do every moment of our day? I think we are afraid that doing God’s will won’t really make us happy. Maybe we imagine that doing God’s will means we will have to pray ten hours a day at church or walk around wearing a burlap outfit. Of course that’s crazy. God probably wants you to live the same life you are living now, but with some minor adjustments, and more closely to Him.

Maybe we are afraid to give ourselves completely to God because we are a lot like the other, older, more faithful son in the parable. We have served our Father for years without ever asking or expecting much for ourselves. But working hard for God without ever experiencing His good gifts and joys does not make us holy; over time it makes us angry and embittered, like the older son who never asked for anything. We start to think of our Father, not as our father, but as a slave master. But our Father says to us today, “My child, you are here with me always; everything I have is yours.”

“Taste and see the goodness of the Lord,” as our psalm said. Do not let your face blush with shame at asking for good things for you and your friends to enjoy. When we are poor and call out the Lord hears us, and He will save us from all our distress. So look to God, and be radiant with joy.

We’ve learned important lessons from both of the sons in this parable, and I hope we will put them into practice.

From the faithful but disgruntled son, we learned the importance of asking for good things from God. So today, at this Mass, ask our Father to surprise you today with some good gift that you’ll enjoy. Then watch to see what He does for you.

From the prodigal son we learned the importance of living with and for God every day of our lives. So tomorrow morning, when you wake up and you’re lying in bed, make the sign of the cross and entrust yourself to God for that day, that you may live your life that day always with Him and for Him. Ask you guardian angel to remind you and I bet you will remember.  Try it, and I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the difference it makes in your day.

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2 Responses to “The Prodigal Son — 4th Sunday in Lent—Year C”

  1. Katie Reigel Says:

    This is a good homily and I like how you put it both sons point of view!!!

  2. Hugh Macken Says:

    Fr Feltes –
    Thanks again for your help the other day.
    I like your blog. Just thought you might find this helpful if you decide to post audio versions of your sermons online:
    http://www.4-14.org.uk/wordpress-plugins/sermon-browser#tutorial
    Sincerely,
    Hugh

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