Despite most degrading sin, God forgives

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During the days of the Civil War in America, a guard was caught sleeping on duty. For that, he was sentenced to death.

When Pres. Abraham Lincoln heard about it, he himself talked with the guard and ordered the penalty commuted.

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His generals complained, but the president’s decision remained. Because of the  compassionate gesture, the soldier did his best from then on, and proved to be an exceptionally diligent, conscientious soldier.

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That true story might well illustrate the over-bending compassion of the father in the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Lk 15, 11-32)  in this 4th Sunday of Lent.

Bible scholars say that the Parable of the “Prodigal Son” is a misnomer. It should be called the Parable of the “Prodigal” Father because the whole story depicts the incredible love of the father for his errant son.

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This love begins when the father reluctantly yielded to the wish of his son who insisted to be free by getting his inheritance and breaking away from home.

Although the father knew the danger that lay ahead, he let him go. This gives us an insight into God’s love: for love to be true it must be freely given; it cannot be forced.

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After the profligate son had spent all his patrimony in “loose living,” he was despondent, broken, abandoned.

In order to keep body and soul together, the impoverished lad had to work in a piggery feeding swine. This has an interesting symbolism. For the Jews who are forbidden to eat pork,  to have a job of feeding swine and eating the “husks the pigs ate,” means one has reached the lowest level of his social status.

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“Then the son came to his senses,” the story continues. For the first time he realized what a big mistake he had made. He said to himself, “I will arise and go to my father.” So he returned home.

What did the father do when he saw him coming? The father ran and threw his arms around him and kissed him (despite his stinking smell).

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The loving father in the story represents God and the wayward son is every sinner; that is us. Christ is saying that after even the most stupid of mistakes or the most degrading of sins, God is always waiting for us and, with open arms, will take us back.

In the words of Pope Francis: “God never gets tired of forgiving us. It is we who get tired of asking forgiveness from Him.”

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