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September 15, 2013

A couple had two little boys, ages 8 and 10, who were excessively mischievous. They were always getting into trouble and their parents knew that, if any mischief occurred in their town, their sons were probably involved. The boys' mother heard that a priest in town had been successful in disciplining children, so she asked if he would speak with her boys. The priest agreed, but asked to see them individually. So the mother sent her 8-year-old first in the morning.

The priest, a huge man with a booming voice, sat the younger boy down and asked him sternly, "Where is God?"

They boy's mouth dropped open, but he made no response, sitting there with his mouth hanging open, wide-eyed. So the clergyman repeated the question in an even sterner tone, "Where is God!!?" Again the boy made no attempt to answer. So the priest raised his voice even more and shook his finger in the boy's face and yelled, "WHERE IS GOD!?"

The boy screamed and bolted from the room, ran directly home and hid into his closet, slamming the door behind him. When his older brother found him in the closet, he asked, "What happened?" The younger brother, gasping for breath, replied, "We are in big trouble this time.God is missing! - and they think we did it!"

God is not missing. He is still present and if God had a refrigerator, your magnet picture would be on it. If he had a wallet, your photo would be in it…Face this reality, friend, God is crazy about you. To prove it, you might recall the last recorded conversation Jesus had. He was on the cross. One of the criminals besides him begged him to remember him. Jesus in his torment painfully whispered, “Today you will be in paradise with me.” The fifteenth chapter of Saint Luke’s Gospel, has been called “the Gospel in the Gospel.” It contains the very essence of the good news which Jesus came to tell. It proves that the love of God is greater than the measure of human mind and the heart of God is the most compassionate one.

We speak of the Master as a carpenter. However, today’s parable indicates another dimension to him. He takes His turn as a shepherd. He walks the hills around Nazareth with His family’s sheep or the flock owned by the village. He understands a shepherd’s job definition. Only a crazy shepherd would leave a large flock for other shepherds and go in search of a stray sheep. Where would he find the energy after such a long work day? Who would help if a wolf should come upon the main body of sheep destroying some and dispersing all the others? How would the shepherd explain this situation to his employer? He would become an ex-shepherd and begin looking for a second career!

The three parables: the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin and the Lost Son have the same idea: God is crazy about you! Maybe the Parable of the Lost Son is closer to us as we don’t care much about sheep and coins. Do you have any problem in your family in terms of relationship? Surely you do as much as I do. Here is the young man who comes up and requests a share of an inheritance when his parents are still alive! That is unthinkable! Maybe he wants to cut off his relationship with his family or in his point of view, his parents are dead! His father knows for sure that the foolish young man wouldn’t be smart enough to handle the large sum of money but he gives him anyway.

After spending his inheritance unwisely to the last penny the young man hires himself out to do what the Jewish people would never do. That is to tend pigs. In doing that he denies his nationality and the promise of God for his nation. When he comes to his senses, he returns home, not because of his repentance but because of his empty stomach.

What does the father do during the absence of his son? He sits at the porch, looking at the end of the road. That is why when he sees the shadow of his son, he runs and embraces him, restores his dignity and gives him back what he doesn’t deserve without checking his criminal records! The father is crazy about him and the party begins!

Do you feel sorry for the older son in the story? Do you feel that it is a very unfair and unjust story, that it gives a licence to sin? Do you feel the older son gets a bad deal from the father? Do you believe the younger son gets away with sins, and that he should have been punished and he should have been taught a lesson? If you feel like this obviously you identify completely with the older son. You see yourselves as the faithful ones. But which of us can say that we have always been faithful? Do we not all squander God's grace and misuse God's gifts? Do we not all need to return? Therefore, which of us would like to be treated by God according to strict justice? Do we not all need more mercy than justice?

The Parable of the Prodigal Son has an open ending. Only one thing we know for sure, that the father has equal love for both sons. What we don’t know is whether the younger will stay home or will run away again. We also don’t know whether the older son accepts his brother again or not. That is the beauty of the parable. Maybe we are one of these characters and we have to make a decision for ourselves.In a way, every one of us has been lost once in a while and the Lord has found us. Also shouldn't this Gospel cause us to think one more time about the lost son and daughter in our own circle? If God does not give up on the worst of us, if He would work even up to His crucifixion, why do we give up on them? I challenge you to find a lost one and invite back to the Church this week.

Read the Gospel again: “We had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found” (Lk 15:32).