Jos 5:9, 10-12
Ps 34 R/. Taste and see that the Lord is good.
2 Cor 5:17-21
Lk 15:1-3, 11-32
What a beautiful story our Lord shares with us today, the Parable of the Prodigal Son. We’ve all heard many times in our lives; I’m sure you’re all very familiar with it, so today, I won’t give a lengthy exegesis of the parable but rather focus just on one aspect: the father’s welcome.
Let’s listen to that passage again: … while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him (Lk 15:20). What a beautiful scene! Instead of scolding his son for having rejected him — by asking for his inheritance early, the son was essentially saying, ‘You’re dead to me’ — and wasted his inheritance, the father embraces him, clothes him with the best robe, and puts a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. In other words, the father removes the signs of slavery and sin and restores his son to the fullness of the dignity of sonship that he had before.
This, my brothers and sisters, is why we rejoice today on Laetare Sunday. Because God is the compassionate and loving father who embraces us, his prodigal children, when we return to Him repenting of our sins! Like the father in the parable, God waits for our return, watching for us in the distance, and then, when He sees us, He eagerly runs out to meet us. Yes, there is indeed more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents (Lk 15:7).
And it’s this eager, joyful compassion that God extends to us that we’re called to remember in this Lenten season as we examine our hearts, repent of our sins, and turn back to the Father. That’s why we do Lenten penances, to express our sorrow: Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you (Lk 15:18). And when we do this in humility and with a genuine sorrow for our sins, then the Heavenly Father embraces us just as in the parable, and He renews our sonship, clothing us with the best robe: the garment of salvation, the robe of righteousness (cf. Is 61:10).
But God’s joy in our return doesn’t stop there! He also celebrates our return with a great feast. God is generous in His love and mercy, and this, this is why today we rejoice. Rejoice, Jerusalem, and all who love her. Be joyful, all who were in mourning; exult, for God welcomes sinners (Is 66:10-11; Lk 15:2).
Through the grace of Christ, and the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, may we also truly repent of our sins and return home to the Father to share in His joy. Amen.