Sunday Vigil

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Reading of the Word of God

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

Whoever lives and believes in me
will never die.

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

Luke 15,1-3.11-32

The tax collectors and sinners, however, were all crowding round to listen to him, and the Pharisees and scribes complained saying, 'This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.' So he told them this parable: Then he said, 'There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, "Father, let me have the share of the estate that will come to me." So the father divided the property between them. A few days later, the younger son got together everything he had and left for a distant country where he squandered his money on a life of debauchery. 'When he had spent it all, that country experienced a severe famine, and now he began to feel the pinch; so he hired himself out to one of the local inhabitants who put him on his farm to feed the pigs. And he would willingly have filled himself with the husks the pigs were eating but no one would let him have them. Then he came to his senses and said, "How many of my father's hired men have all the food they want and more, and here am I dying of hunger! I will leave this place and go to my father and say: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as one of your hired men." So he left the place and went back to his father. 'While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with pity. He ran to the boy, clasped him in his arms and kissed him. Then his son said, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son." But the father said to his servants, "Quick! Bring out the best robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the calf we have been fattening, and kill it; we will celebrate by having a feast, because this son of mine was dead and has come back to life; he was lost and is found." And they began to celebrate. 'Now the elder son was out in the fields, and on his way back, as he drew near the house, he could hear music and dancing. Calling one of the servants he asked what it was all about. The servant told him, "Your brother has come, and your father has killed the calf we had been fattening because he has got him back safe and sound." He was angry then and refused to go in, and his father came out and began to urge him to come in; but he retorted to his father, "All these years I have slaved for you and never once disobeyed any orders of yours, yet you never offered me so much as a kid for me to celebrate with my friends. But, for this son of yours, when he comes back after swallowing up your property -- he and his loose women -- you kill the calf we had been fattening." 'The father said, "My son, you are with me always and all I have is yours. But it was only right we should celebrate and rejoice, because your brother here was dead and has come to life; he was lost and is found." '

 

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

If you believe, you will see the glory of God,
thus says the Lord.

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

As we continue our Lenten path following Jesus, we are given this Gospel passage on forgiveness. As the Gospels often note, a large crowd is following Jesus, and it is mainly composed of the sick, sinners, and the abandoned. All this did not go unnoticed. In fact, this privileged relationship with sinners was the source of some of the accusations made by the Pharisees against Jesus. But it was not an accidental bond; it was rather part of Jesus' mission itself and, we could say, part of the very image of God. Jesus is doing nothing other than following the commandment of the Father in heaven: he is bringing God's mercy to all. In his response to the objections made about the time he spent with tax collectors and sinners, Jesus speaks of the Father and not himself. In the parable of the prodigal son, he describes God's behaviour towards his children. The entire story is constructed to highlight the father's unusual behaviour towards his son, who had left the house and squandered all the possessions he had inherited. It is the father who stands at the centre of the scene. And his embrace of his son is the climax of the Gospel passage, not the son's thoughtless decisions. Despite everything that his younger son had done to him, the father waits for him to come back home so he can embrace him and celebrate. How could Jesus act any differently? But we must be careful. The younger son is not the only one who is distant from the Father. The older brother is also far from his father's feelings of mercy. The parable shows the father waiting for the younger son to come back. As soon as he sees him, he runs to him. This is what the Father is like, Jesus says. He runs towards us because he wants to have us with him again. That is the meaning of Christian forgiveness. It starts with God, even before we repent. All we are asked is to welcome it, to recognize it. We could say that the scene of the father embracing his son is the clearest icon of the sacrament of Confession. It seems that the father cannot stand to be without his sons. Therefore, he also went out to the elder son, who did not want to come in: he also must embrace his brother. God is like that: he always precedes us in love and runs towards us, sinners that we are. He embraces us, and teaches us to embrace one another. The time of Lent is the appropriate time to experience the richness and the joy of forgiveness, both through Confession and through reconciliation with our brothers and sisters.