Saturday, 18 March 2017 : 2nd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture reminding us that God is loving, and He is filled with mercy for His people, as He desires to forgive all those who have wronged Him, all who have betrayed Him and left Him behind, as what the parable of the prodigal son would have told us, that famous story on forgiveness and mercy, as told by Jesus our Lord.

Most if not all of us should be quite familiar with the story, which we have heard since our childhood, or in our catechism classes, or through reading the Scriptures. But how many of us truly understand its meaning and its significance? How many of us can relate ourselves and our own experiences with that story of the prodigal son, who was forgiven by his father?
In that parable, we heard how the prodigal son left his father after getting his share of the inheritance, and squandered off all his wealth and possessions on lavish living. In the end, he had no money left with him, and all of his friends who used to be with him left him behind. He suffered terribly in that foreign land, and no one would want to help him, even his friends. He had to endure the most difficult of conditions, and even shamed by working at the lowest possible places as a caretaker of pigs in a farm.

In the end, the prodigal son decided to go back to his father, seeking to humbly seek his forgiveness and even wanted to declare before his father that after having committed such a shameful act, and after having sinned in such a manner, he could no longer be called the son of his father. Instead, he wanted to be treated just as one of his father’s slaves.

But his father would have none of that, and ordered his servants that his younger son should be dressed up in the finest of clothes and a feast be prepared for his sake, celebrating his return from the faraway lands. He was indeed dressed up and treated with a treatment equal to that of the son and heir of a king. Then we heard about how the elder son was angry at his father after having heard of the treatment which the prodigal younger son had received.

In all of these, we can see ourselves, and how we relate ourselves with God and one another. The parable is a very good representation of our very own selves, our lives and our actions in this world. The father is a representation of God, while the prodigal son represents all those who have sinned and who have been separated from God and His love. How about the elder son? The elder son represents those who have remained true and faithful to the ways of the Lord.

First of all, the prodigal son is just like us, who have wandered off from the way of the Lord, seeking other things and other pleasures of life instead of the love of God, just as how the younger son looking to venture to a far off land. Yet, his father allowed him to do so, the loving God, Who loves each and every one of us, because He loved us. He gives us a free will and a freedom to choose our path forward.

But in our sins and in our weaknesses, in our frailties and in our easy fall into temptations, we have fallen into a miserable state just as the prodigal son did. And when we are in trouble, people who do not truly love us or care for us will leave us behind. They are like Satan and his angels, who pretended to be our friends, but when we have fallen into sin, they will laugh at our folly and marvel at our downfall and misery.

There is only One Who will remember us and continue to love us, and that is God. Even though we have wandered off, rebelled, and disobeyed Him, He will continue to love us, just as the father continued to think about the prodigal son. But we must remember what the prodigal son had done. As wrong and mistaken as he had been, he had resolved and decided to humble himself and sought his father, returning to the father who loved him.

This is where many of us mankind have faltered, because we have not been able to overcome one thing that often stands in the way of our salvation. And what is that, brethren? It is pride, our very own human pride. From our pride, came stubbornness and all the other things that have prevented us from seeking God and His forgiveness. First of all, we think that whatever we do, God will forgive us without our need to make the effort to seek for repentance, and this is the sin of presumption according to the renowned St. Cyprian of Carthage.

And presumption came from our pride, in our thought that we cannot have done any mistake, that we cannot have been wrong, even in our despicable state of sin and wickedness. This is what all of us must resist and overcome, brothers and sisters in Christ, or otherwise, we will continue to fall and end up in eternal damnation of hell. Let us seek instead to follow the path of the prodigal son, who humbly sought the forgiveness of his father.

And as we all can see, the father forgave his prodigal and wayward son, just as God is ever ready to forgive us and to welcome us back. We must not be afraid to seek God the Father for His forgiveness, for there is a second great sin, according to St. Cyprian, and that is the sin of despair, which is ultimately also born out of our human pride. We think and assume that our sins are so great that God will not forgive us, but God will forgive us if only we make the effort to overcome our sins and repent from them.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we need to realise that God is ever merciful and loving, especially to all of us who have sinned and fallen into sin. But God’s mercy will not have any effect on us, unless we consciously put in the effort to make that mercy useful and meaningful to us. God wants to forgive us, but do we want to be forgiven? And are we able to commit to the commitment to sin no more and lead a righteous life from now on?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore, during this season of Lent, we need to spend some time to reflect on our own lives and our actions. We need to reevaluate our lives and actions, and we need to renew our lives in the same manner as the prodigal son. Are we able to overcome our pride, our stubbornness and all the obstacles that had prevented us from reaching out to God and His mercy?

Now, we also then need to take note of the action of the elder son, who became angry at the return of the younger, prodigal son. Jesus through that action was rebuking the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who have often hampered the return of sinners to God’s grace, because they thought that sinners were incapable of being forgiven by God, and because they thought that they alone deserved God’s love.

As Christians, and as those to whom God had given His grace, we cannot have this kind of attitude. First of all, we need to know that God loves everyone, all sinners alike, and we have to remember that all of us are sinners after all, in need of God’s mercy. We must always be vigilant lest we fall back into our sinful ways. And therefore, we should not think that we alone deserve God’s grace, but rather, we should help open the path to God’s mercy to those who are in need of our help.

Let us therefore guide one another, and help each other to remain faithful to God and true to His ways, by showing our faith through our words, actions and deeds, so that all of us may be saved together, and receive once again God’s love and grace. May all of us walk in the path of the prodigal son, and humbly seek forgiveness for our sins, and may all of us be able to commit to repent from our sins, and do good from now onwards. Amen.

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