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Fourth Sunday of Lent C: March 27, 2022

Luke 15:1-3, 11-32

Fr. John Tran

It’s strange the way things work out sometimes, isn’t it? Look at this father’s two sons. The younger refused to really get to know his father when he was young, but after he was gone several years and experience real life, the younger son actually did come to know his father. He met him for the first time when he came home in disgrace. But the older son had lived his whole life with his father, and he did not know his father either - even after all those years. The question is, will the older son ever know his father?

This older son has gone out to the flocks every day since he was of working age. He has no doubt worked side by side with his father many times. We have to ask, what did he observe all this time? He has continued to live and work with his father without really knowing him or understanding him. He has been obedient, but is it because of love for his father? Or is it that he is waiting to come into his own when his father dies? The older son feels justified in refusing to welcome his brother home.

It is easy for us to understand the older brother in this parable, isn’t it? He feels insulted when his wayward brother is welcomed home with such an extravagant party. If the younger brother had never left, and stayed and done his duty, all this celebration never would have happened.

The older son had never publicly shamed his father, blown away his inheritance, or indulged in disgraceful behavior. He had always been dependable, but he had never been given even a goat for a party with his friends. Actually, it is not too hard for us to understand him; we resonate with his feelings perhaps in our own family situations, with friends, or in the work place.

Whenever we feel like the elder brother, Jesus invites us to imitate the father instead, who received his son home with forgiveness, not resentment. The older brother in us may protest that forgiveness isn’t fair. Justice means getting what you deserve; mercy means getting what you don’t deserve.

But the world Jesus has planned for us is not based on fairness as the world understands it. It is about justice, but is tempered with mercy and grace. Forgiveness isn’t deserved either. It is gift and it heals. We don’t know what the older brother finally decided. Maybe he did come to know his father in that moment and love him. And in loving his father, he would come to love his younger brother also.

Let us live so that the older brother or sister in us comes to love too; to love both God, our Father, and our brother or sister as well. Then we will come to really know and love the Father. It takes living with a purpose, living in repentance with grace and mercy.

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