There was a priest who once parked his car in a no-parking zone in Philadelphia because he was short of time and could not find a space with a meter. So he put a note under the windshield wiper that read: "I have circled the block 10 times. If I do not park here, I will miss my appointment. FORGIVE US OUR TRESPASSES." When he returned, he found a ticket from a police officer along with this note. "I've circled this block for 10 years. If I do not give you a ticket, I will lose my job. LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION."

Most of us, if not all of us, can relate with the prodigal son. We are all human beings and human doings. We commit mistakes. All of us are sinners. We have weaknesses in our hearts, perhaps skeletons in our closets or maybe indiscretions in our past.

So, whenever we hear about this parable, we feel relieved because we are reminded of a merciful and forgiving God, in the person of the prodigal Father.

What did the younger son do? By demanding his inheritance, he insulted his Father. He was actually telling him that he could not wait for his Daddy to die. Not only was he self-absorbed by what he wanted, he was also very irresponsible to what he needed.

What his Father earned the hard way, he lost quite easily. And because the son did not really work for his money, he easily lost it all. Easy come, easy go. The pigs, which his faith and his heritage found intolerable, became part of his struggle to survive. And so, he came back to his senses. The Father’s Way is much better than his.

To make the long story short, his Father forgave him. He threw a feast for his return. They became reconnected once again.

This leaves us with the older son. In Rembrandt’s famous painting of this parable, the older son was looking intently at his younger brother. If only his thoughts were turned into words, he would have said, “How could you?” Partly he blamed his father because he welcomed this sinful brother of his. And who knows? Perhaps he might be blaming himself because he could have done the same thing that his younger brother did and still be forgiven.

How many of us are like this elder brother? There are some among us who feel cheated when these sinners, our brothers and sisters, seemed to have won the best of both worlds and had now returned. There are among us who easily judge them so harshly, thinking we are better than the drug addicts, murderers, hypocrites, sexual abusers, muggers and thieves.

If we are like the older brother, our sin is more grievous and deadly than that committed by the prodigal son. Because if we are like the older brother, we are like the Pharisees that Jesus once condemned and for whom this parable is actually intended.

Forgive the sin, save the sinner. That is what the Prodigal Father did. Forgive the sin, save the sinner, that is what the elder son should have done the soonest. Forgive the sin, save the sinner. That is what is being asked of us.

It is really not so far-fetched. We do it all the time. We overlook our own failures and we go on with life. We ask forgiveness for our sins and we do it again. We seek God’s mercy and love and we know that if we really look deep into our hearts, the prodigal God the Father through the prodigal loving Jesus is urging us to forgive and beckoning us to be forgiven.

A heart that does not forgive is not a heart blessed and happy for life. A heart full of grudges and misgivings is a heart empty of God. And a heart empty of God is a heart filled with despair, sarcasm and sadness.

If like the younger brother we still have not asked for forgiveness, please know that our Father is waiting. He loves you and you can always go home to him. However, if like the older brother we still have not forgiven those who have wronged us, please also know that our Father is right for us. He wants you to know that all he has is yours. And so, when somebody was dead and has come back to life, when somebody was lost and is now found, we have to celebrate.

For us to do that, we have to forgive.

14 March 2010

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