HOMILY FOR THE FOURTH SUNDAY OF LENT - LAETARE SUNDAY

Fr Billy Swan


Dear friends. On this ‘Mothers’ Day’ weekend, 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.

God’s providence has arranged that the Gospel on this ‘Mothers’ Day’ is that of the Prodigal Son or as it is more accurately described as ‘the merciful father’. It is perhaps the best loved parable that Jesus ever told, the most powerful and most rich in meaning. Despite the hundreds of times we may have heard it, we can never exhaust the drama of the story and how relevant it continues to be for us today. It is the story of a parent and his love for his two children and how he desired, as any parent does, to have both his sons come home.


I would like to start, unusually perhaps, with the second son who is angry. He is angry because he wrongly thinks that the father loved his brother more than he loved him. He is angry because he resents working as a slave for his father all those years.

How many family wounds are caused among siblings who think that one is loved more by their parents than the other? I recall a true story of a mother whose youngest son died tragically in a road accident. As the family struggled with their loss, one of the surviving sons said 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’.


God’s mercy is like that the love of that mother. It shows itself in ways that it is needed and at the right time. The merciful father in the Gospel did not love the older brother less. It’s just that the younger son needed to see that love at the time he needed it most. Therefore, God’s love is like water from a tap that fills the shape of the bottle beneath it, no matter what shape the bottle is. All that is necessary is that the bottle be empty and open to receive it. This is how we are to be too – open and empty to receive love as gift.

And then we have the younger son who leaves home. He is symbolic of all of us who make gods out of our freedom, our pleasures, our independence and who have wandered far from God’s house.


So many have left the Church, left the Eucharist, the sacrament of God’s mercy and have walked other ways. Some say they are happy. For others, they end up miserable like the prodigal son with no roots, no joy and no hope. For many, the freedom and happiness that a carefree life promised has failed to deliver the joy and life that they were made for. For them, leaving the Church and their faith behind has left them far away from their true selves, lonely and lost.

Friends, there is no place like home. Home is where the heart is. The parable of the prodigal son is a call to all of us as God’s children to come back home to the warmth and acceptance of a parents love that burns like a fire on the hearth. It is a love that calls us away from slavery and resentment and away from selfishness and thinking we can live without God and his Church. Come home for Easter! Come home now! God’s joy awaits us.