Dear parishioners and friends in Christ,
This weekend, throughout the Church, Catholics will hear one of Jesus‘ most well-known and well-loved stories: the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Jesus told the parables in response to the religious leaders of the day who were shocked that he was associating with sinners and spending time with them. In the strict interpretation of the Old Testament laws, forgiveness and new beginnings for the lost weren‘t readily available. In most cases, the lost simply remained lost and not too many would bother to look for them. Forgiveness was something desired, but not always assured.
In telling the story, Jesus reveals in a powerful and touching way something extraordinary about God. God is merciful, generous and kind. God loves us so much more than any earthly father ever could. He does not want the lost to remain lost forever. Thus, someone who has drifted away from God, even abandoning His flock, because of their own sinful-ness, is never written off. Unlike the way human beings often treat one another, God doesn‘t close doors to those who have lost their way. Jesus affirms that for those who are ready to begin again, forgiveness can be a reality, not only a hope or desire. In other words, God is always eager for the lost to be found and brought back to the fold. When the lost realize that they are missing God in their life, all they have to do is return home.
The Parable of the Prodigal Son shows a vivid picture of our own lives before God. There were surely many moments when each one of us has been in the pigpen of life, and what motivated us to get out was probably the same as what mo-tivated the prodigal son: he was miserable and was tired of being miserable. When we realize that what we are doing is not working, and that we are so far down in the pigpen, the only natural thing to do is to look up. Jesus tells us that when we do so, we shall see the merciful face of the Father.
As we continue the journey of Lent, this Good News of Jesus gives us hope and motivation. The Lord has opened the gates of heaven for us; he did not die to keep them closed. That is why our Catholic faith has an incredible gift in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, which we call a Sacrament of Healing. It is the opportunity to realize that God‘s love for us has not stopped, despite the distance that we have put between us and Him. God‘s love is stronger.
So, dear brothers and sisters, why not give yourselves a chance this Lent to experience the depth of God‘s healing love in the Sacrament of Reconciliation? Opportunities for this abound in our parish. You can take advantage of the weekly confessions that are offered in our lower church every Saturday afternoon from 3:30pm to 4:30pm or come to celebrate the Sacrament with us on Reconciliation Monday, April 11, 2022 – the day when all Catholic churches in our city will be open for Confessions (see this bulletin for more details).
In the Parable of the Prodigal Son, the Father runs out to greet his son with love and compassion. I can sympathize with the son because I myself have been in his shoes many times. And I can reassure you from my own experience that there is great joy in being embraced by God through the voice of a priest: “I absolve you from your sins!” There is great joy in returning home. Whenever there is forgiveness, there is celebration. This incredible experience of transformation is not closed to us; it is waiting to be found.
Blessings & grace to you!
Msgr. Cuong M. Pham