A scholarly attempt at an interpretation of Sunday's liturgical readings.

Sorry about that…

When you say you are “sorry,” people assume that you have done something which is considered sinful.  It seems that much depends upon the value system under which one operates to call any situation sinful.

In the Gospel for the Fourth Sunday of Lent (Luke 15:1-3, 11-32), we note that the Scribes and Pharisees are fully aware that Jesus associates with sinners and also eats with them.  I wonder if that value system was one that wanted to keep  class distinction separate so that Jesus would not “soil” himself by associating with sinners.

At any rate, when Jesus heard this complaint from the Scribes and Pharisees, he spoke of the parable about the Prodigal Son to show what sinfulness really was.  Many of you know the story.  A father has two sons.  The younger son wants his share of the belongings that belong to him.  He takes off, spends the money unwisely, and soon a famine strikes that land, and the son is left without anything.

He hires himself out for the sake of survival, and lands a job feeding swine.  He realizes what he has done to his father, and that the servants at his father’s house have it better than he does.  He expresses regret at what he has done, and decides to go home to his father and asks to be a servant at his father’s house.

The father sees him coming from a distance, goes out to greet him, and tells his servants to prepare a feast.  The older brother is angered by the father’s reaction toward his younger sibling, and refuses to enter the house.  The father tells him that his brother was “lost” but now has been “found.”  Because his brother has been “found”, the older brother should rejoice.

What is this Gospel telling us?   First, that when we sin, we are “lost,” but when we repent, we are”found.”  Second, that God, much like the father in the parable, loves us even at the moment of our sinfulness.  In fact, there is no sin so great that cannot be forgiven by a loving and merciful God.  I’m reminded that the prophet Hosea touches on this subject when he says, speaking about the Israelites, “I will heal their disloyalty.  I will love them freely, for my anger has turned from them.”  (Hosea 14.4)  The key word is “freely” because  it assures us of God’s gratuitous love.

Our lesson is this.  God loves us even when we are sinning, but, as the younger son does in the parable, first there has to be some kind of repentance on our part.  It is God’s gratuitous love that makes repentance possible.  And that repentance for us would be the sacrament of Confession.  During this time of Lent it would be a good thing to take advantage of that repentance.  So that when we do harm to anyone, it would be easier to say “Sorry about that,” and then repent.

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