The Return of the Prodigal Son

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“Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to make merry and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost and is found.” (Luke 15:31-32)

The key to understanding the story of the Prodigal Son is to bear in mind that Jesus gave the story in defence of his association with those whom the Pharisees and Scribes labelled as “sinners.” It is true that birds of the same feather flock together but in the case of Jesus, it was different. While eating with Matthew and the tax collectors, Jesus said: “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:32)

The story of the Prodigal Son shows us the depth of God’s compassion. As one great man said: “God is never tired of forgiving us, we are the ones who get tired of asking for His forgiveness.” God is the Father who takes more joy in seeing the sinner repent than in seeing the sinner perish. (Cf. Ezekiel 18:23). God is the Father who waits patiently for the return of his lost Son despite what the boy did in the past.

As Micah tells us in today’s first reading: “God does not retain His anger forever because He delights in mercy. He will again have compassion on us, he will tread our iniquities underfoot. He will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.” (Micah 7:18-20)

Like the prodigal son, we often think the grass is greener in the neighbours’ lawn, we feel God’s commandments are a burden and we assume we would be happier elsewhere but then all we get in the end is sorrow, tears and regret. As St. Paul clearly states, the only reward for sin is death. (Romans 6:23). No wonder the Father said to the elder brother: “this your brother was dead, and is now alive; he was lost and is found.”

As we say in the Stations of the Cross, “no matter what my past has been, I can begin anew.” God is inviting us today to rise from where we have fallen, to pick up our Cross again, to say with the Prodigal Son, “I will arise and go to my Father.” Perhaps you haven’t been to the sacrament of confession for a very long time, today is another opportunity. Examine your heart, make a firm purpose of amendment and return to God.

Let us pray: Lord Jesus, may I never be tired of asking for your mercy. Amen. Bible Study: Micah 7:14-20, Psalm 103 and Luke 15:1-3,11-32).

Jesus Our Living Water.

“Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me all that I ever did.’” (John 4:39)

On the first Sunday of Lent, we considered the Temptations of Jesus, last Sunday, we reflected on the Transfiguration of Jesus, today being the third Sunday of Lent, the day the church celebrates the First Scrutiny in preparation for the Sacraments of Christian Initiation, we are invited to ponder the encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan Woman.

Like this woman with a sinful past, our candidates for Christian Initiation have come today to encounter Christ, they too will abandon their jar, forget about their bad reputation and become evangelists spreading the Good News to all. St. Paul tells us that the proof of God’s love for us is that Christ died for us not because we were perfect but while we were still sinners. No matter what our past is, Jesus is inviting us today to drink from living water. This brings us to our lessons for today:

1. The Vanity of the Material World.
In his conversation with the Samaritan woman, Jesus made a clear distinction between the water she had come to draw from the well and the water Jesus wanted her to have. Jesus said to her: “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14).

The truth is that like this woman, we are all seeking for water in Jacob’s well; we spend our time and energy trying to amass as much wealth as possible but the more we get, the more we crave: we are never satisfied. As John admonishes us: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world passes away.” (1 John 2:15-17).

St. Augustine would say: “Our hearts are restless until they rest in God.”You take the whole world and give me Jesus, you take the whole world and give me Jesus, you take the whole world and give me Jesus, I’m satisfied, I’m satisfied. Only Jesus can give us living water which becomes a spring in us bringing us true satisfaction.

Even though the Samaritan woman came to fetch water, by the time she tasted the living water, she abandoned her jar and ran to the city to spread the Good News. You would know when you have tasted living water when you make God your priority, when you no longer pray just the material things of this world: things that never satisfy.

The disciples had gone out to buy food for Jesus to eat. When they returned, they saw Him talking with a woman. They asked Jesus to eat but he said: “I have food which you do not know about.” Once again, Jesus is comparing our physical food (which does not satisfy) with spiritual food (which lasts forever). Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. Instead of trying fruitlessly to feed your flesh, start feeding your soul; nourish your spiritual life and you will find inner peace.

2. Stop Complaining: Deepen Your Trust in God.
Something happens to us when we seek satisfaction only from material things; we become frustrated, disappointed and angry, we even become suicidal; we start to question our purpose of living. This was exactly the situation with the materially-minded Israelites in our first reading today. They quickly forgot about God and were seeking for ordinary water. They murmured against Moses saying they wished they had died in Egypt instead.

By making water flow from the Rock, God was not only giving them water to quench their thirst, God was also seeking to revive their faith; to show that He is a God for whom nothing is impossible. Have I been complaining a lot lately? Perhaps, it is a sign that I have allowed my present predicament to consume my faith. Underneath our many complaints in life is a strong lack of faith in God’s ability to solve our problems. In today’s second reading, we hear St. Paul remind us that: “hope does not disappoint us.” Stop complaining. Hope in God. Try to see the bigger picture, know that God is leading you somewhere.

3. God Seeks Those Who Worship Him in Spirit and Truth.
It is not enough to boast about being baptised and confirmed. We should avoid treating the sacraments like certificates we receive in school. To be baptised and confirmed does not automatically qualify you for heaven. In his conversation with the woman at the well, we hear Jesus say: “The hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such the Father seeks to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:23-24).

Dear friends, on the last day, we shall all be judged not by the church we attended but by the way we worshipped God. As Jesus warns: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers.’” (Matthew 7:21-23). We may deceive everyone but we can never deceive God. Repent today and come out of the darkness.

4. Evangelization is bringing Christ to People and then bringing People to Christ.
The Samaritan woman came to draw water at that time of the afternoon because she had a bad reputation in the community (having being married to five husbands already). She was trying to avoid people but by the time she encountered Jesus, she felt the urgency to announce to the whole village. When you are too ashamed to talk to people about Jesus, it means you are yet to encounter Him.

This woman who was ashamed of our past before ran to the village talking freely about her former life and how Jesus has transformed her. You know you have truly repented when you are able to talk about your shameful past freely with others. To evangelize is to bring Christ to people; to tell them your story; how Christ has changed you. John tells us that “many Samaritans believed in Jesus because of the woman’s testimony.” Nevertheless, it doesn’t stop there, after bringing Christ to people, we must then make the next move which is bringing the people to Christ. After she had told her story, she allowed the people to encounter Christ for themselves so much so that they now said to her: “It is no longer because of your words we believe, for we have heard ourselves and we know that He is the Saviour of the world.”

Let us pray: Lord Jesus, give me living water that I may not thirst again. Amen. Bible Study: Exodus 17:3-7, Psalm 95:1-2,6-9, Romans 5:1-2,5-8 and John 4:5-42).

Fr. Abu.