First Reading:Exodus 32:7-11, 13-14
Psalm: Psalm 51:3-4, 12-13, 17, 19
Second Reading:1 Timothy 1:12-17
Gospel: Luke 15:1-32
There is something about dirt, mud, and puddles that attract little children. Despite mothers' warning and pleading, children are always getting their hands and feet dirty in mud and puddles. When I was little, my mother took me along on her way to pay the electricity bill. The office was in the middle of a large field, and she left me outside to play and wait for her. She came out less than five minutes later, but she saw that my shoes and pants were covered in mud. While she was inside I was running around the field and fell in a mud pit and got my pants and shoes all dirty. She gave me a brief and light spanking along with litany of what I should not do in the future. Then we rode a bus back home. In the bus people were staring at me and stepping away from me. By the way, I forgot to tell you an important detail in this story. The mud pit I fell into had no ordinary mud. It was filled with manure. Do you now see why people had to step away from me? I stank, but I didn't know it. My mom had to really clean me after we got home.
I wonder how the father of the prodigal son would have reacted if he had heard the news that his son was in the mud pit with pigs. Just as we are disgusted with the thought of someone covered with manure, a Jewish person at that time would have been equally disgusted with the thought of someone living in the same pit as pigs. You can imagine this man stank of mud, manure, and pigs. But if this man has approached you and wanted to shake your hand, would you do it? Would you go one step further and give him a hug? My gut feeling says no. If this man approached me, I would try to avoid him. In fact this has happened to me few times when I went to volunteer at Mother Teresa's soup kitchen. The street guys coming in for the meals would say, 'Hey Father,' and they thrust their hand upon me. And for a split second I would think to myself, 'Oh no, please don't.' Then I would break a nervous smile and shake their hand. And all that time I would think about what kind of germs would be on my hand and think about next opportunity to wash it clean.
Isn't it amazing then as filthy and unrecognizable the prodigal son was, his father was able to recognize his son from a long distance? And instead of running away from him (like I would have), the father ran toward his son. This spoke volumes about how much this father loved his son. He has already forgiven his son for squandering his precious wealth. The father only wanted his son to return home, to live as a rightful heir to his fortunes. But in order for this prodigal son to enjoy plentiful food and wealth of his father, he had to take a hard look at himself. 'Wait, what am I doing here? I stink and I'm hungry. I can do better than this if I return to the father.' The moment he decided to return, he was already well on his way back to enjoying his father's love and wealth.
All of us here at the church are so much like this prodigal son. We are here in the Father's house once again after a week of dealing with challenges at work and at home. And you know, going for a week without a spiritual shower, we begin to smell, spiritually, because of our sins. We might not know that we stink, but we do. Just like when I entered the bus and did not know that I stank of manure; when you live with the smell for a while, your nose gets sensitized. Did you know there are saints, like St. Joseph of Cupertino who had the gift to smell sin? That's why when we entered this house, we made a sign of the cross with the Holy Water which reminded us of our baptism and asked Our Lord to again wash us clean away our sins. After mass began, we took a hard look at where we were, spiritually. And we admitted our sins by reciting, “I confess to Almighty God,” and asked for God's mercy and forgiveness. We remember that last week, we received God's most precious wealth, His Son in the Eucharist. Did we treasure His Son in our hearts all through out the past week, using this grace to love God and neighbor? Or did we squander this grace like the prodigal son, offending our Lord in our hearts? If we have squandered his grace, we should feel empty and hungry. That's why God the Father feeds us with His Word and the Eucharist once again to allow us to journey another week. If you think about it, we are experiencing for ourselves the prodigal son's journey from the mud pit of pigs back to his father's house every week in the mass.
I know if we are not careful, mass can become a routine for us, just an obligation to fulfill. Our Lord has given us a a wonderful parable of the prodigal son to remind us that we are the prodigal son who is in need of return to the Father's house. Surely if my mother was able to accept and love a manure covered son, how