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3/1/2016 9:00:00 AM
Called to be forgiving and forgiven

Mary Jo Tully
Chancellor, Archdiocese of Portland

Fourth Sunday of Lent
Joshua 5:9a, 10-12
2 Corinthians 5:17-21
Luke 15:1-3, 11-32

Storytelling is surely the oldest and most enduring form of evangelization. Every faith community has a central story. For Catholics, that story is the Paschal Mystery. The sacredness of that tale fills us with awe and it takes an entire liturgical year to tell it. We enter into it most profoundly at the Paschal Triduum.

There are still other stories like the parables that help us to understand that central story.  Jesus was a wonderful story-teller and often used parables to help us look at the ways in which we are called to respond to the Paschal Mystery.

In today’s Gospel, we hear a story with which we are very familiar.  At first sight, the parable of the Prodigal Son is about forgiveness and mercy.  It is also a story about the waywardness in each of us and the petty jealousies which consume us.  It is a story about our lack of sensitiveness in relationships.  It is, most profoundly, a story into which each of us can step during various times in our life and one in which we can assume a role as we discover the options open to us in a given situation.

Typically, we seek first to find God in the story, and, most likely, will identify him in the actions of the father.  Turn the story “upside-down” and see the legitimacy of a variety of approaches as you discover that most often we are the wayward son but we are also capable of being the forgiving father.  

Today’s parable is especially poignant in this Year of Mercy.  We look in a special way at forgiveness and reconciliation.  There are times when our reconciliation with others whom we love is accomplished slowly and continues long after the words “I’m sorry” are said.  The more we understand the human dynamic of sorrow, the more we appreciate the reconciling power of the Sacrament of Penance to keep us in touch with the ongoing dialogue of redemption in the Church — to help us bring about the kingdom.  Together, the penitent and the confessor participate in a human experience of sorrow that is based on Scripture and communal prayer.  Together, they realize the dynamic of sorrow and reconciliation that is being achieved.

The Parable of the Prodigal Son is the tale of sons who need mercy and who need to be merciful. For too many, relationships are built on the hope of a reward. The continual love and affection of the Father is not enough.  From time to time, we take the gift of the moment and run.  Yet, no matter how far we wander, the Father welcomes us back.  He knows we might be returning for the wrong reason, but he hopes we will remain for the right one.
We are challenged to celebrate the kingdom today, to carry this relationship into the future.

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