WELCOME BACK HOME

September 11, 2022 – 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Click here for the readings (https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/091122.cfm)

We surely have heard and familiar with our gospel today. And hearing and reflecting again & anew today’s parable would still always be fascinating, for it offers us ever fresh insights into our Christian faith & life.

Now, if we are to give it another title, how would we call it?

Well, we all know that this parable is known to us as the parable of the prodigal son. But we also know that this parable is more just a story about the prodigal younger son’s misdeeds and repentance. The parable is also about the elder son’s bitterness as well as the father’s love. Surely there is more to this parable that it cannot be limited to the called only as: “the Prodigal Son”, or “the Merciful & Forgiving Father” or “Disapproving or Resentful Elder brother.” Perhaps we may also call it: “WELCOME BACK HOME”, I think.

WHY? We, Filipinos all know that Ours is a culture of strong family ties, and the basic representation of this strong family relation is the HOME. That is why family occasions such as leaving and coming home are important events in the story of the whole family. When someone leaves home, it is like death – a big loss or gap within the family. While when someone comes back home, it is like a fiesta – a thanksgiving, an offer of renewed life & energy within the family.

Especially for us Filipinos, there are three yearly events in our life that are occasions for homecomings – reflecting our family ties and our home life: the Christmas, Holy Week and All soul’s day. On these occasions, we usually find some time to come back home and spend some time and enjoy our own family. Surely you will all agree, that pasko or semana santa or kalag without kuya, ate, nanay or tatay would be “kulang,” guol o subo pud, murag namatyan. Feels like someone & somethings are missing & lacking.

These events are important occasions in our Filipino family life and culture, because these are the moments not only for family get-together, knowing and enjoying each other anew, but also reconciling our differences and renewing our family relationships and visions in life.

Our parable today has a strong appeal to us, Filipinos because it is all about “Homecoming.” It is about a loving father who receives his repentant son and appeases his resentful elder son BACK HOME. He invites both his sons to go back home. That is why somehow it is appropriate to call our gospel today as:  “Welcome Back Home.”  It is a homecoming, a reconciliation, a renewal of relationships.

This reminds us of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, or what we commonly know as confession. Primarily the sacrament of reconciliation is a Sacrament of homecoming, an opportunity, an occasion for us Christian to be reconciled and be renewed with our relationship to God.

As a minister of the sacrament of reconciliation, I learned two things in confession. First, that like in the parable, there are two kinds of penitents coming in for confession: the repentant and the resentful penitent who both needed, invited & received to be at Home with God, others, and himself. And second, that the Sacrament of Reconciliation is more than just a Sacrament of sorrow but a sacrament of joy. Long lines of penitents coming for confession (especially in our Redemptorist churches during Wednesdays) are indications not only of people’s sinfulness and sorrow but more so, are stories & our-story of homecomings, reconciliation, God’s healing, forgiveness, love, mercy, joy, and above all, renewal of our faith-life relationships. 

Undeniably a few baptized Catholics nowadays have gone astray and have turned lukewarm in their relation with God in our church, especially during these Pandemic times. Our parable today is both a reminder and open invitation of Jesus for us Catholics, His people and follower, to COME BACK HOME to Him thru His Church.

Consider then our whole life now, as Christians, is our homecoming – our way back home to the Lord thru His church. Regardless of what happened & happening in our lives now, this parable son is OUR STORY – the story of our journey of coming back & being welcomed by God, our Father – who, like the father in the parable, always merciful and ready to forgive, invites, waits and welcomes us back to his home. He can only express His abounding love to us if you and I, in sorrow or resentment approach Him and ask for his forgiveness and healing, for as He said to Isaiah, “Come back to me with whole heart… for long have I waited for you coming home to me and living deeply our new life.” Siya Nawa. Kabay pa. Amen.

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