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4th Sunday of Lent
Luke’s parable today is the center of his magnificent work on the life of Jesus.  Bible experts readily point out that this is the summary of all the gospels put together.  Luke 15, with its story of the prodigal son and his merciful father, is the centerpiece of the teachings of Jesus as it makes us aware of God, of ourselves and of our response to the invitation to have a change of heart.
The first thing that we notice in the parable is the amazing way of loving that the father exercised over his sons.  Those of us with children know that we cannot love our children in the same way, although we try to love them equally.  They have their proper and special needs and they demand to be treated accordingly.
To the younger son, whose heart longed for freedom and rebellion, the father gave perfect freedom. Wanting to run after pleasures, the father, with a heavy heart no doubt, allowed him this desire. The father was not a possessive lover.  After counseling his son about the perils of his decision, he allowed him to experience the consequences of his dreams.
Many of us are possessive in love.  We are afraid to let go of people.  We dread the day they move away from the ambit of our care. We do everything to contain them and fashion them within our small, limited world. We love others with glue in our hands so that they may not wander far. We are possessive!
To the older son, loyal to the family and to the estate, the father also allowed perfect freedom. As he was not forced to stay behind, now he was not compelled to alter his feelings of anger and envy at his brother-returnee. After the father explained valuable lessons in compassion, he allowed his older son time to heal and understand.  He was not a manipulative lover.
How many of us are manipulative in love! Because people are on our side, don’t we try to influence them, control them, direct and dictate our own ideas on them? We take advantage of others’ goodness by making them subtly fit in and follow our plans. We want to play with their feelings and control their minds.
Today we see a totally different father, neither possessive nor manipulative in his love.  As a result, we see an awakening in his two sons.  The younger, sensing his father’s great compassion, took the courage to return home and be reconciled.  The older, though his story was incomplete, certainly had enough time to reflect on his anger and move on to acceptance and forgiveness.
This is the Father our Lord Jesus introduces to his disciples and to us, a God who loves us so much as to set us free to both discover our own desires and his own immense heart.  Whether we identify ourselves with the younger or older son, there is a Father patiently waiting for us to embrace the light and come home.
This Lent, let us reflect on the freedom of love the Father bestows on us. Touched by it, may we take the step back to the Sacrament of Confession where the Father waits for us with arms wide-open and a heart flowing with mercy.