Sunday, March 6, 2016

Lent 4 C - Mar 6, 2016

Holy Cross Monastery, West Park, NY
Br. José Folgueira, OHC
Lent 4 C - Sunday, March 6, 2016

Joshua 5:9-12
2 Corinthians 5:16-21
Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32

All is forgiven                                                                                                    

The Prodigal Son - Rembrandt
Ernest Hemingway wrote a short story called “The Capital of the World.”  In it, he told the story of a father an his teenage son who were estranged from one another. The story is set in Madrid, the son’s name was Paco. Spain is full of boys named Paco, a nickname for Francisco. He had wronged his father, as a result, in his shame, he had run from home. In the story, the father searched all over

Spain for Paco to restore their relationship. Finally, in the city of Madrid, in a last desperate attempt to find his son, the father placed and ad in the personal column of the local newspaper. The add read: “Paco meet me at the Hotel Montana, noon Tuesday. All is forgiven. Papa.”

The father prayed that the boy would see the ad; and then maybe, Paco would come to the Hotel Montana. On Tuesday, at noon, the father arrived at the hotel. When he did, he could not believe his eyes.

The police had been called out in an attempt to keep order among eight hundred young boys. It turned out that each one of them was named Paco, they were looking an opportunity to go home to their father and find forgiveness in front of the Hotel Montana.

Eight hundred boys named Paco had read the ad in the        newspaper and hoped it was for them. Eight hundred Pacos had come to receive the forgiveness they so desperately desired.

This story illustrates the great truth that Jesus was driving at today’s gospel, the Parable of the Prodigal Son. The Father has not given up on us. He never gives up on us. He longs day and night for us to come home. And if and when we do, He is overjoyed. He love us. He forgive us. He restores us.

The relationship between the prodigal son and the father is much of what this parable focuses on. And we can see why Jesus shared this parable. He had been accused by the Pharisees and teachers of the law of welcoming sinners and eating with them. He had been eating with the prodigals of society. But Jesus had to remind the Pharisees that He came to find what was lost, to heal what was sick.

The tax collectors and sinners fit the picture of the prodigal son of the story. Whether or not they purposefully squandered their inheritance as God’s children, they recognized that forgiveness was not about them. They knew that their way was not the way God wanted them to live. They need Jesus, and Jesus was there for them.

Forgiveness is not about the son. The son doesn’t come home expecting to receive forgiveness. Forgiveness is not about the father either. The father isn’t thinking about himself when it comes to forgiveness, he is thinking about his son. Forgiveness is not about the obedient son either.

His envy over his prodigal brother blinded his need for forgiveness. And just as forgiveness is not about any of the characters in the parable, the rest of the Bible shows that forgiveness is not about me either.

As that prodigal son, we found ourselves in the same state as the tax collectors and sinners, realizing our wicked ways, and laying ourselves at the mercy of God. But even this is not what forgiveness is about. Forgiveness is not about us, for when we were still a long way off, God saw us, He ran to us, He forgives us, he does not bring our sin up anymore, we are once again children.

The Spirit of of God taught me how everything that is happening to me whether inside or outside, which means my life as a whole, is happening to Him not me. The injustices of this life or how people treat me, it is always directed to Him.

By the same token, everything you and I think about someone else, whether it is a simple murmur, insult or  that we repeatedly hurt someone, it is directed to Him not the person. No matter how deserving the other person is, somehow He is the one that we hurt.

There is a quote that is true and real, from Oswald Chamber, who was an early twentieth-century Scottish Baptist, by the way I get to know about his writings thanks to our beloved Br. Andrew, it says: “No matter what your circumstances may be, don’t try to shield yourself from things God is bringing into your life. We have the idea sometimes that we ought to shield ourselves from some of circumstances; we have to see that we face them abiding continually with Him in His temptations. They are His temptations, they are not temptations to us, but to the Son of God in us.”

Forgiveness is only found in that perfect life and death of our Lord Jesus Christ, forgiveness is not about me.

Forgiveness doesn’t ask anything in return. But the result of God’s forgiveness in me is then reflected in others. Sometimes when we are given an opportunity to forgive, we might act more like the older brother than the father, trying to see what we can get for our forgiving of others. Our forgiveness should not be conditional, because once again, forgiveness is not about me. We are reminded of the words in the Lord’s prayer, “forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.”

For my Lenten reading this year, a friend pass me a gem of a book “Love Alone Is Credible” by Hans Urs Von Balthasar. Towards the end of the book these words jumped off the page. So I leave with these words:

“Once a person learns to read the signs of love and thus to believe it, loves leads him into the open field wherein he himself can love.

“If the prodigal son had not believed that the father’s love was already there waiting for him, he would not have been able to make the journey home, even if his father’s love welcomes him in a way he never would have dream of.”

The decisive thing is that the sinner has heard of the love that could be, and really is, there for him, he is not the one who has to bring himself into line with God; God has always already seen in him the loveless sinner, a beloved child and has looked upon him and conferred dignity upon him in the light of this love.”

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