Why should you never say the number 288 in public? 288 is two gross. (One gross, 144…)
What do you call a magical dog? A Labracadabrador.
Today’s gospel is the parable of the prodigal son. I read a similar story about a family in Spain. It was about a father and son who had become estranged. The son ran away, and the father set off to find him. He searched for months to no avail. Finally, in a last desperate effort to find him, the father put an ad in a Madrid newspaper. The ad read: Dear Paco, meet me in front of this newspaper office at noon on Saturday. All is forgiven. I love you. Your Father. On Saturday 800 Pacos showed up, looking for forgiveness and love from their fathers. -- That story lets us know that the parable Jesus tells us is still very much alive today.
We often refer to this parable as the parable of the prodigal son. But it really should be called the parable of the prodigal father. What does the word “prodigal” mean? Extravagant, lavish, overabundant, over the top, reckless. In the case of the son, it was the extravagant, lavish, overabundant, over the top, reckless waste of money. In the case of the father, it was the extravagant, lavish, overabundant, over the top, reckless forgiveness. Undeserved forgiveness, prodigal forgiveness.
That’s what Jesus meant when he told Peter to forgive not seven times but seventy times seven times. Extravagant, lavish, over the top, don’t-count-the-cost mercy.
First of all, Jesus tells us today’s parable to remind us of what his Father is like. The Father gives prodigal forgiveness. That’s why I like to refer to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, Confession, as the sacrament of God’s hug. In the parable, the father hugs the returning son. Jesus says, “That’s what my father is like.”
The second message of the parable is obvious. We are to imitate God’s prodigal, extravagant forgiveness.
How important is forgiveness? In my book titled, From Blues to Smiles to Joy(how to deal with depression), there is a chapter on forgiveness. Forgiveness must be included in any formula for feeling good.
In my book titled, Our Hearts at Sunday Mass, the second chapter is about forgiveness. Jesus tells us,
“…if you are offering your gift at the altar (like at Mass)and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift”(Matthew 5:23-24). Our preparation for Mass consists of first forgiving.
In my last book, The Ten Things You Must Do Before You Die,the very first chapter is forgiveness. When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we say those daring words. “Father… forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Before we meet our Maker and ask for forgiveness, we want to make sure we have forgiven everyone.
I have a few quotes to share with you.
Steven McDonald was a young police officer in 1986 when he was shot by a teenager in New York’s Central Park, an incident that left him paralyzed. He said, “I forgave [the shooter] because I believe the only thing worse than receiving a bullet in my spine would have been to nurture revenge in my heart,”
Bill Moyers said, “In marriage, every day you love andevery day you forgive. It is an ongoing sacrament, love and forgiveness.”
Isabelle Holland said,“As long as you don’t forgive, who and whatever it is will occupy a space rent-free in your mind.” Anger, revenge, and thoughts of retaliation living in our mind waste a lot of time and energy that could be used for more meaningful living.
Imagine yourself about to run a race. You are in good shape, you have been working out and you are all set to race. The other racers all seem in good shape too.
However, you are the only runner who has a ball and chain attached to your ankle. Who do you think will win the race? Not you. You won’t get very far with a ball and chain, even if you lift it up and carry it.
Unfogiveness is like a ball and chain. It requires a lot of time and energy to carry it around. “Let go,”Jesus tells us.
Give lavish extravagant forgiveness. Then you will be free to live your life.
Lewis Smedes said, “(For us humans)to forgive is to set a prisoner free and to discover that the prisoner was you.”
The most powerful example of prodigal love comes from Calvary. On the cross, Jesus exclaimed, “Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing”(Luke 23:24).
Today, and every day, let us give thanks for God’s extravagant hugs (plural) of forgiveness.