A priest was celebrating Holy Mass for children in a Catholic Elementary School. After reading today’s Gospel passage, he said to the young children, “The story we just listened to is the story of the prodigal son. There was a party at the end of the story. Who was sad during the party?” One of the children answered, “The fattened calf that was slaughtered.”
When we read this story of the prodigal son, many times, we think of ourselves as the prodigal son who has returned home; we see ourselves as the prodigal son when we go to the confessional. Today, I would like us to see where and when we may be like the older son. The older son was the “good son,” who never left home. While everyone was happily celebrating the return of the prodigal son, the older son was sad, he was angry. Hear him complain to his father, “Look, all these years I served you and not once did I disobey your orders; yet you never gave me even a young goat to feast on with my friends. But when your son returns who swallowed up your property with prostitutes, for him you slaughter the fattened calf.”
The older son in this short speech to his father referred to his brother as, “your son.” He did not refer to him as “my brother.” By calling him “your son,” he was creating an emotional distance between himself and his brother. He went on to complain that his brother spent his father’s property on prostitutes. At this point, I react, “Really! Were you there with him? How did you get the information that he had any relationship with prostitutes?” (There was no Facebook at that time, there was Instagram, there was no TikTok, and there was no YouTube. So, he couldn’t say he saw pictures or videos on social media. Bringing it back to us as Christians, are we not sometimes like this son? Do we not sometimes commit sins in our hearts on behalf of people? Do we not sometimes imagine people doing bad things when we are not there with them? He was not there, yet he presumed that he had spent his father’s property on prostitutes.
This son was sad when everyone else was happy that the younger son was back home. He was too holy to be happy. Bringing it back to us as Christians, what is our attitude when a fellow Christian falls into sin? Do we go all out leaving no stone unturned lovingly to get this Christian back home? Do we not sometimes get angry when Christians who fall away are pardoned and welcomed back into the community? Think of the stories of scandals how far they fly and how much they are celebrated. When a Church leader does something wrong, you do not need to pay for it to be all over social media, but when a leader does something good, it becomes difficult to get the news outside the Church.
Let us examine ourselves, are we not like the older son who seemed to have been happier when his brother was away than when his brother came back home? I find it very heart-breaking that as Christians, we fall below standard compared to secret cultists or gang members when it comes to protecting our own. For a cultist or gang member who gets out of the group, those in the “brotherhood” will leave no stone unturned to get him back to that sect, but for us as Christians, we tend to be happier when a fellow Christian falls, just like the attitude of the older brother. We are all parts of the Body of Christ. What affects one should affect all. Does the hand become happier when the leg is sick? Our joy should be in the wellness of all the parts of the Body of Christ.
There is a story I came across recently on social media. It has it that a man went to Mass on a Sunday and he forgot to switch off his phone. During the homily, his phone rang. His wife turned to him and gave him the look; those who sat next to him shook their heads in disgust, the priest stopped the homily and began to condemn him. He was so ashamed and embarrassed. After the Mass, he went to a bar to drink. In his nervousness, his bottle of beer dropped from his hand and broke on the floor. Some of the content splashed on some of the customers. In confusion, he closed his eyes; he was very sure that everyone would descend on him in anger. But they came asking him if all was well with him. The waiter came cleaning up the mess, saying, “I am so sorry.” The manager came offering him a complimentary drink, tapping him on his shoulder saying, “Don’t worry, who does not make mistakes?” The man never returned to that Church, but he has never stopped going to that bar.
My dearly beloved in Christ, let us remember the words of Jesus that there will be greater joy in heaven over the conversion of one sinner than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need repentance (cf. Luke 15: 7). Let us be agents of reconciliation, let us go in search of our lost brothers and sisters, but If we cannot bring them back home, please, let us not be obstacles to them when they find their way back home.
Homily for 4th Sunday of Lent Year C 2022