It is one thing to lose things, another to lose peace of mind. In the Gospel for today’s Mass (Luke 15:1-32) we have three parables. The first two present people who lost something tangible. In the first, a man loses one of his one hundred sheep and searches until he finds it. He brings it back full of joy. In the second parable a woman loses a coin and searches her house until she finds it. She too shares her joy. The third parable has much more to think about; it is the parable of the prodigal son. Today we mark the 21st year of the terrorist attacks by four teams of suicide terrorists who crashed into both towers of the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a fourth plane which the passengers overtook and forced it to crash into a field in Pennsylvania. We remember with great sadness and mourning all who lost their lives (2,996) -passengers on the planes, people in the buildings, and the brave men and women who attempted to rescue and save them as the Twin Towers fell. How horrible it was to watch this disaster live on television and to live with the mourning and pain, then and still. No matter how good things were that morning at 9:00 AM, that fateful day put an inner fear and sadness in all of us. Dear loved ones were taken from us and it changed the way we think as we travel, especially by air. In our love, we pray for those innocent souls and their families in a heartfelt way today.
The unfair loss of ones on that day was so unjust and certainly unexpected. It reminds us that there are so many things and people that are beyond our control. In the third parable in today’s Gospel, the prodigal son, we see the sadness and pain selfishness causes on a very local level. It shows how our sinful attitudes bring inner pain to our families and friends. As much as this is called the parable of the prodigal son who destroyed the peace of his family, even more, it is the parable of the forgiving father. The father’s inner peace was taken away, but not his loving heart. All too often the pain others leads us to seek to inflict pain and suffering in return with vengeful thoughts, words, and actions. As much as we share our pain with vengeance, all we are doing is stoking the pain in our hearts and asking those listening to join us in our rage. How paternal and loving the father was to wait in hope for his son’s return. He ran to meet him coming back after he had wasted all his inheritance: “While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him.” Wow! Unbelievable! His son was no longer a brash, selfish person, but a contrite young man. He knew he disappointed and hurt his father. He knew how much he had hurt his father and humbly and contritely said, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and you; I no longer deserve to be called your son.” Even those words do not express the depths of the father’s pain. But the father could not stop being his father. Paternal and maternal love are gifts and blessings that cannot be extinguished. The father never lost his inner peace and hope for someone he gave life to and who gave him life in return.
The third person in this parable is the older son who sees the father’s forgiveness and joy as so wrong. He is disappointed that his brother was received back and forgiven. He had no inner peace. Who are we like in this parable? At different times we are like each one them. Of course the one who challenges us the most is the father. He never lost his inner hope. Without hope there is no inner peace. At almost every Mass we celebrate we begin by expressing sorrow for our sins. In this very brief part of Mass, we express our faith in God’s mercy. Deep down we know we do not deserve God’s love. It is a pure gift. God never loses his inner hope for us and his willingness to put his peace in our hearts. The words of Jesus on the cross are brief and life giving as He says to the good thief, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43) Even before that Jesus looked down in His pain and suffering as He hung on the cross and prayed for those who plotted and carried out His crucifixion and prayed: “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)
May we live the prayer Jesus has given us every day of our lives:
Our Father who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done
on earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us,
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.