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 following Jesus along our Lenten path, we receive this Gospel passage on forgiveness. In the parable of the prodigal son Jesus shows what is God's behaviour towards his children; that of a father unimaginably merciful. The parable focuses on the father's unusual behaviour towards his son who has abandoned the father's house and squandered all his riches. But it is the father who occupies the central scene. The embrace with the son is the culmination of the Gospel narrative. Despite the foolish choices of the younger son and everything else he had done, the father waits for him to come back and celebrate. If the Father in heaven is like that, how could Jesus behave differently? The parable continues and presents the eldest son. The evangelist shows that he too was far removed from his father's feelings of mercy. It is moving to see the father running towards his younger son as soon as he sees him returning. This is how the Father is, seems to say Jesus, like the father of the parable. God runs towards us in order to have us again. This is the meaning of Christian forgiveness: it begins with God before us. We are just asked to welcome this embrace. The scene in which the father embraces the son is the clearest icon of the sacrament of Confession, or in any event of forgiveness. That father does not seem to know what to do without his sons. He even goes out to the older brother who did not want to come inside: he wants him to embrace his brother. That is how God is: he always precedes us in love and runs towards us, sinners, to embrace us and to teach us to embrace one another. The Lenten season is a good time for us to experience the richness and joy of forgiveness, both through Confession and by being reconciled with our brothers and sisters.