Joshua 5:9a, 10-12; Ps 34:2-7; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21; Luke 15:1-3, 11-32
As a priest for over forty years, my main concern is how to help Catholics understand what Jesus’ Church is all about. The readings this weekend are clear about that. The Joshua reading speaks of the Jewish people having moved into the promised land. They celebrated a feast (the Passover), remembering their exodus from Egypt the day after they ate the produce of their first harvest. Part of Psalm 34 is a nice expression of thanks to God for his provision.
The gospel story today is well known to all of us. We hear it often at communal penance services. Many still call it "the Prodigal Son" story. Yet more are now calling it more appropriately "the Loving Father." God, our Father, mostly seems distant to us. Yet we see our Father’s love very clearly in the way Jesus cared for God’s children in his public life. We could see the loving father as the central person in this story. The younger son takes his share of the inheritance and goes off squandering it on bad choices, which seem good from the "dark side," satan’s kingdom. In the end, the young son got tired of eating pig fodder. Finally he goes home, asking his father’s forgiveness and willing to simply work as a hired hand. His father reinstates him fully and has a great party to celebrate his "lost" sons return. How beautiful a story.
I have used this kind of story when I have heard the confession of a person who has been away from our church for a very long time, such as thirty or more years. "Welcome home. Let’s go have dinner or a party." The person is amazed that I am so happy that they have come home. They got all their sins taken away through God’s forgiveness. Granting absolution is the second most important power a priest is given at his ordination, to care for God’s people. You get your past sins "erased" and start over with a clean slate. After confession I have frequently felt much lighter. "Try it. You’ll like it."
The responsorial Ps 34 acclaims, "Look to God that you might be radiant with joy.” I love hearing confessions and observing people leaving our experience with freedom and joy. Get cleaned up for Easter. If you have been away for a while, please come home. I "am running out to greet you and welcome you home." We would love to have you back.
Have a blessed week,
+ Fr. Bob Hilz
(© 2016 Fr. Bob Hilz, TOR}