Saint Thomas of Canterbury, Bolton

Stay with us, Lord, on our journey

Cycle C

Fourth Sunday of Lent

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 Luke 15:1-3, 11-32

“This man welcomes sinners and eats with them”

This was the complaint of the Pharisees who were scandalised by the fact that Jesus consorted with known sinners. It prompted a series of parables, one of which we hear today. It is popularly known as the parable of the ‘prodigal son’, a story of the recklessly wasteful son of an extravagantly generous father. We should not forget that Jesus told this parable in his own defence. After all, he had come to preach the good news of God’s love and redemption for all, including sinners, the poor and the outcast, the dejected and rejected of the world.

As far as the Pharisees were concerned, sinners had voluntarily cut themselves off from God and so any decent person would cut himself off from any association with sinners. In contrast, Jesus, first by his actions in seeking out sinners, and then by his parables about sin and forgiveness, presents a totally different picture. He proclaims that God acts in direct contradiction to their cherished religious views. God is an extravagantly generous and forgiving Father; God’s love is boundless and ungrudging; God’s gratuitous mercy reaches out to everybody.

Like the Pharisees, represented in the parable by the older son, we too find it difficult to comprehend such gratuitous love and undeserved forgiveness. The younger son was lost, not through some chance happening, but through his own choice, his own squandering activities. Then let him reap what he has sown, is their mentality. But that is not the mind of God. The totally unmerited and utterly immeasurable love of God for each of us is precisely what lies at the very heart of the Gospel.