HOMILY FOR FOURTH SUNDAY OF LENT - LAETARE SUNDAY

Dear friends. On this ‘Mothers’ Day’, we congratulate all the mothers of our parish and think of them with affection and gratitude, whether they be in heaven or still here with us on earth. I begin with a true story of a mother who had four children and whose husband had died some years before. The youngest of the children was a boy named John. One day, John was killed tragically in a road accident which left the family devastated. A few weeks after the accident, the family were sharing a meal at table and were talking about John and remembering him. Then, one of the remaining sons said something odd to his mother: ‘We always had the impression that you loved John more than the rest of us’. The mother thought for a moment and then gave this response: ‘It wasn’t that John was loved more by me than the rest of you. It’s just that John needed to see that love more than you did’.

This is precisely the logic of divine love that Jesus explains in the story of today’s Gospel, the Prodigal Son. It’s not that the father in the story loved the younger boy more than his older brother. This is how the older brother saw it and was the reason why he was angry and resentful. But while the father loved both his sons the same, at that moment when the younger son came over the brow of the hill stinking of pigs, having degraded himself by sin and selfishness, that was when he needed to see the father’s love and forgiveness most. It was then that he needed new clothes, new sandals and even a ring on his finger to show him that his identity had been restored as the father’s beloved son. Here is the logic of divine love, compassion and mercy that is much greater and broader than our own. It is the mercy of a loving mother or father that never ceases to reach out to their children.

But there is another fruit of divine mercy that the parable brings out. Notice that when the older brother protests about the extravagance of the father’s celebrations, he refers to his younger brother as ‘this son of yours’ rather than ‘this brother of mine’. The resentful brother is not only alienated from the father’s house but also from his own brother. The father’s gift of mercy to both of them is an offer for both to come home and return back into his house. If and when they do this, they will become not only sons of the same Father but also brothers of one another who both experience the Father’s love in ways both needed it at the time.

Here is the nature of God’s love for us. It is like water that pours out from a fountain and that fills the container that receives it, whatever shape that container may be. God’s mercy is like that. We receive it abundantly but in ways and times when we need it most. Such is also the love of a mother that reflects the mercy and faithfulness of God.

Today we give thanks for the love of our mothers who gave us a taste and hint of the loving mercy of God that overflows in the parable of the prodigal Son.

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