Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary - Homilies


4th Sunday of Lent
Fr. Jonathan L. Reardon
March 10th, 2013
Year C

I have never tried this but they say that if you put a frog into a pot of boiling water, he will jump right out. On the other hand, if you put him into a pot of normal water and bring it to a boil, he will stay and slowly boil to death. I’m sure the guys on Duck Dynasty have tried it! It can happen that sin can be a bit like this. Its not as if one day we are all of sudden different where we turn our backs on God in an instant. It happens slowly, perhaps if the practice of our faith has become mere lip service and a matter of routine.

Maybe this is how it happened to the son in the Gospel reading today. It is not like he just woke up one day and told his father to give him his share of the property and took off. I’m sure it was a gradual. We have to understand the underlying factor involved here. The son’s desire to leave is symbolic of sin. What happens when we sin is we distance ourselves from God. It is as if we are saying, like the son, “I want to do this on my own.” The son in this parable desires freedom and he thinks he will get it by leaving. How many of us have thought the same thing? “Once I leave my family home, I will be free.” But what happens to him when becomes “free”? He squanders what he has and finds himself now in desperation. He has become trapped. The only thing he can do is get up and go to his father and ask forgiveness. In an act of extreme humility, he returns, carrying with the weight of his sins, the guilt, and the shame.

The flip side is the other son. Even though he has not left the home, he is not without his own sin. He is obedient to the father out of fear. He is jealous of the father’s generosity to his brother because of pride. He thinks he ought to be rewarded for staying. The two brothers both desire freedom. They both desire the joy and happiness that comes from being in their father’s company. Yet, they seek it in all the wrong ways. Authentic freedom does not consist of doing what feels good, nor is it to indulge compulsively. This sees the father’s laws as imposed and as tyrannical. This is why when one leaves the home any choice is a good choice. I call this liberty, not freedom. True freedom, which we all desire lies in doing what is right and good because it is good. It sees sin as the tyrant. The selfish son who leaves his father upon “coming to his senses,” acts in freedom to return. This type of freedom is written on the heart and is oriented toward love.

This is where the father comes into play. He does not see the negative in either son. He sees the potential for goodness in them both. For instance, he catches sight of the lost son from a distance and runs after him. He goes out to meet him. With the second son his love is manifested in his desire to give – “everything I have is yours.”

The meaning of the parable is obvious. It speaks about the nature of our Heavenly Father and His eternal desire for our happiness and freedom. It speaks about His mercy. This is the way in which God looks upon us. He sees only the good that is in us even though we may sin. Our sins can either be like the son who ran away or the jealous brother – or somewhere in between. Nonetheless, we so desire our freedom that very often we are not looking for it in the right places. Too often we are searching for it in a manner that is self-seeking and selfish – in a way that leads to self-love. The son who ran away shows us what happens when seek freedom in this way – it leads to the destruction on our human dignity. We need only to seek true love, love that endures to find authentic freedom. True love is sacrificial, self-giving, seeks the good of another because that person is good – for his or her own sake. This love is a mirror of God’s love. This is how God looks upon us. Like the father in the Gospel story, God the Father sees past our defects, flaws and sins and He sees the good in who we are as human beings made in His image and likeness. If we wish to free then, we must go after this love for, as Blessed John Paul II wrote before he was Pope, “freedom exists for the sake of love…” (Love and Responsibility, 135).

Where do experience this love of God? We find it in the Eucharist, for sure, but also in the Sacrament of Penance. It is in confession do we live this Gospel reading. In it, we bring to the Father our faults, defects, flaws, the ways in which we have failed to truly love, to choose that which is good because it is good. We do so, not because we are inherently bad people, but rather because we want to be the people – the men and women – that God sees when we confess our sins to Him. He sees the goodness in us. He sees our potential for sanctity. If we focus too much on the negative it only hinders us from drawing close to God. This sacrament, therefore, has been given to us, not for the sake of making us feel guilty or making think that we are bad people. No, it is meant to bring us freedom. Confession helps to see the good in us, the potential that we have to be saints and it makes us say ourselves – and to God – I want that for myself. I want to be free! What will we do for our freedom? How will we fight for it?











Fr. Jon Reardon

Rev. Jonathan L. Reardon is a priest for the diocese of Springfield in Massachusetts.
He serves at Sacred Heart Parish in Pittsfield, MA.



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