The Gospel today tells us: Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to Jesus. The tax collectors and sinners were the rejects of society, traitors and cheaters, people who were nobodies yet, they dared to come near to Jesus to listen to him. While it may be true that they had done horrible things in the past, they experienced the hope proclaimed by Jesus. While society views them as rejects, they know God accepts them and they can enter the kingdom of God when they repent and turn to Jesus. How do they know this? Jesus, the image of the invisible God, shows the compassion of the Father. The First Reading says: who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over the transgression of the remnant of your possession? When we come to God in repentance, he pardons our sins and he treads our iniquities.
The parable in the Gospel today shows the compassion of God. The younger son squandered his inheritance resulting in a most miserable life where he would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. At this point in his life, he decided to go back to his father, as a servant and not as a son. The father did several things when he saw his son from a distance: 1. He was filled with compassion. The Greek word for compassion means his intestines yearned. His deepest being yearned for his son. 2. He rushed to the son. 3. He put his arms around him. 4. He kissed him.
On the other hand, the elder son saw himself as a servant and did not understand his role as the son of his father. His life with his father was one of grudging and resentful duty. To him, the father came out, and began to plead with him. Because of the son’s anger and resentment, he rebuked the father. In spite of his ignorance, and in spite of his disrespect, the father still called him Son.
The Psalm tells us: The Lord is kind and merciful. The Lord, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the Pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy.
The actions of the father in the parable are the actions of God to us. He comes and pleads with us to come to what he has prepared for us. But quite often, we reject God either because we think lowly of ourselves or we think too lowly of the love and mercy of God. We reject him and are angry at him. And despite all these, he still calls us Son or Daughter. And when we accept his pleading, he rushes to us, puts his arms around us and kisses us.
In these times of isolation, it is easy to think God has abandoned us. It is easy to think God has forgotten us because we have lost a lot, or even everything. We are alone and we long for fellowship. But the truth is: God has not forgotten us. He will never abandon us. We are never alone because the inner parts of God yearns for us. People may say, we are rejects, traitors and cheaters. Our response is yes, but nothing can separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus my Lord. People may say we are sinners, deserving hell. Our response is yes, but there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. People may say we are worthless. Our response is yes, my sins are forgiven because I am redeemed by the blood of Jesus in the riches of God. Our worth is not because of who we are, nor because of what we have done. But our worth is in what we allow God to do for us and in the great things he will do for us when we come to listen to him.
From the readings today, we hear God tell us to come to him and receive what he has prepared for us because his deepest being yearns for us, to rush in and rescue us, to wrap us in his arms and to kiss us, because we are finally home. He longs to heal our hurts. He longs to make our darkest sin whiter than snow. But we need to respond and accept his call. Should we decide to come back to God, we can ask him at this mass, especially when the bread and wine are transformed to Body and Blood of Jesus. We ask him to take us, his unfaithful, worthless, ungrateful child, and transform us so he can heal us and make us whole. We say to him, My Lord, and my God, I am here I come to you because you have the words of eternal life.