1. Exodus 32:7-11,13-14
Luke15: 1-32

                               " Mercy should take precedence over justice"

During the catechetical instructions for catechumens, a certain priest after had having gone through the story of the prodigal son, asked the catechumens the following question," At the end of the story who is it that ended up in the worst situation?" One of the catechumens answered, " The fatted cow." This  was the animal loving person, certainly he was correct to respond in that manner, however the answer a priest expected was  " The elder son."

The parable of the prodigal son begins with a request. The prodigal Son says to his father: " father give the share of your state that should come to me." In this context we are given our first insight concerning sin. Sin always involves the misuse of something good. For example, sins of the tongue like gossip, slander, swearing and lying all involve the misuse of something good, namely, the God-given gift of speech. Sins of the flesh are committed when people misuse the good gift of sexuality which the Lord intends for marriage only. Let us notice that in this story the younger son requested the share of the estate that was coming  to him. He was not making an improper request. He was not asking something  evil. He was requesting something good which his father was planning to give him anyway. Nevertheless his sin came when he misused the good gift and squandered his inheritance on what the gospel calls " dissolute living."

Likewise, in the parable of the prodigal Son we can identify three main characters: The father, the younger son, and the elder son.  The young son in character seems to be volatile, impatient, easily bored ready-to-try-everything teenager. He collect his inheritance, goes abroad to see the world, and squanders his birth right in loose living. He actually represents every sinner. In sin we squander our human and divine birthright and in the end we are no better than in the beginning. Usually sin promises us life of happiness, satisfaction and excitement but in the end all we get out of it is misery, wretchedness, dissatisfaction, depression, and a loss of the sense of personal dignity that belongs to us as God's children. The good news is that no matter how deeply the sinner sinks into sin, there is always a still, silent inner voice within us inviting us to come back to our Father's house where true freedom and satisfaction is to be found.

What kind of God's image do we understand from this parable? in the parable there is a father who is so loving that he lets his rascally son have whatever he wanted. With ordinary senses we can even say he spoils the boy.  Sometimes we have this image of God as a very stern, demanding father who is always read to whip us into line. However, this is very far from the image of God we have in this parable. In the parable God is presented as a tender loving father who is easy on his children, and who is ready to forgive, no matter what. If this is how God relates to us, then we can see that God possesses the tender-loving quality mother as well as the tough-loving quality of father.

Furthermore, there is the elder son who is introduced at the end of the story. If you want to describe the elder son by one word you could call him a gentleman. He is a man of honor, solid, hardworking, consistent, disciplined, and sober- a perfect gentleman. In the elder son we see the virtues, as well as the vices, of middle class morality. Then what are the vices of middle class morality? Arrogance, better-than-insensitivity and a spirit of unforgiveness. The elder son exhibits these vices in the way he refuses to welcome his lost and found brother, his father's explanation and invitation notwithstanding. He must have his pound of flesh. For him it is a matter of justice, but for God that is nothing but self-centeredness and unwillingness to forgive.

What are some aspects depicted in the first son also found in us? it is clear that the first son syndrome is very much alive among us. do you remember what took place during the execution of the formal president of Iraq, Saadam Husein? Saadam Husein in all aspects he appeared to be deserving the capital punishment. The video clips that showed his execution, showed some people who were gathered outside and inside the execution prison, some of those people were there to demand justice to be done by really seeing that Saadam Husein was to be executed in response to evils he comitted, thus they were cheering  and jeering as he was hanged. However there were some people who were for him, they thought that justice was not done to their president. Those who protested against hanging of Sadaam Husein prayed for love, mercy and forgiveness while the cheering group was calling for justice. The parable of the prodigal Son reminds us today that for God love and compassion takes precedence over blind justice.

Puritanism is always confused with Christianity. To be puritanical is to be scrupulously demanding in religious conduct and morals. For such a person the number one virtue is discipline. To be a Christian, on the other hand, is to profess and live according to the example and teaching  of Christ. Here the primary virtue is love and compassion. As Christians we believe in a God of love and compassion. Jesus was a man of love of compassion both in his teaching  and in his dealings with others. The challenge for us Christians today is to be people of love and compassion, to like the prodigal father in the parable and not like the uncompromising elder son in a world full of prodigal sons and daughters.

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  1. This homily is much related to the homily of 4th Sunday of Lent Year C.Thus you can revisit the homily archive in this blog for more understanding on the parable of the prodigal Son.