Go, Wander and Come Back!
Joshua 5.9a, 10 – 12
2 Corinthians 5. 17 – 21
Luke 15. 1 – 3, 11 – 32
The Israelites had been a broken people. They had migrated to Egypt to escape famine in
Palestine. But in Egypt they were an ethnic minority, discriminated against, and eventually
enslaved, which is the most humiliating state of humanity. They needed liberation. So God, with
a little help from Moses, rescued them from slavery and built them up with signs and wonders.
God protected them like a cast protests a broken bone until they could heal. But then came the
time to remove the cast and let the people go free. Setting free is God’s job. If God sets you
free, you are free.
Let us turn our attention to today’s gospel parable. The parable of the prodigal son is rather long
and so familiar that we may be tempted to go numb after its first two lines. But I invite you to
listen to this parable as if you never heard it before.
We can enter this story through several doors. The first door is the sinner – the younger son. We
have all been there, done that …Fortunately, most of us have come to our senses and returned to
god for forgiveness. If we have, we know the joyful embrace of the loving father.
The second door of entry to the parable is the righteous one – the older son. As the story is told,
he is on the right path. He has a cell phone, computer, calculator – he is all wired.
He is like us, unable or unwilling to remember his sins. He has rendered himself incapable of
sharing the father’s joy or his brother’s relief. He is the most tragic figure in the story. He is the
typical Christian, very doubtful, fearful, never leaving home and very insecure in himself. He
has no experience of outside. So anything new, any challenge in life will threaten him very
much. Unfortunately, all of us have been there. All of us have let the hidden sins of jealousy
pride and self – centredness rule our days and ruin our lives.
The third and most narrow door of entry is the loving father. He is the one who runs out to greet
the returning son; he is the one who goes out and invites the rebellious brother into the party. He
leaves no stone unturned in his mission of forgiveness. He has lived his life to the best of his
ability, yet his sons have failed to learn the lessons h lived. He does not grow angry; he will not
let himself dwell on where he might have failed. He loses himself in forgiveness knowing that,
in the end, only love brings success. No wonder the third door is so narrow, for few of us have
entered through it.
Thus we come to the point that this is the story of forgiveness, restoration and reconciliation.
Well and good! But is this really just a story of forgiveness? There is no need to ask for
forgiveness because there is no condemnation in the story. The father does not hold any grudge
or anger against either of his sons. So it is the story of an individual soul. It is about leaving,
wandering and returning. We don value what we truly earn – not the things that come our way.
Go, wander and come back. It is the story’s true message. Reconciliation is recognizing your
We need to leave home to come home. We need to separate to return. When we have this
experience of leaving, wandering and returning we are stronger. Remember everybody is a
story! Everyone has a story of leaving, wandering and returning. During this Lent let us try to
get back on track.
In one of the most famous stories Jesus told, we find a wayward son too proud to come home,
deciding to return not as a son but as a servant. He sits among the pigs and finally acknowledges
to himself his state of disgrace. In his defeat he comes “to his senses”. In coming to his senses
he is found again. In losing his dignity he finds his purpose. This simple little phrase, “he came
to his senses,” is the lynchpin of the whole story. This is the pivotal moment. From then on he
is rediscovering himself. He is no longer lost because he knows where to go. He’s going home.
He’s going back to the father.
Coming to your senses is crucial for a disciple. It is the moment in the middle of a full-blown
argument when you hear that quiet voice in the back of your head which says, “Actually., David,
what you are doing here is wrong.” It is cold, daunting place where you confront your own
darkness. The Church calls it an examination of conscience and most of us don’t choose to go
Sometimes we pretend to go there. When a teenager says sorry an exaggerates the word while
rolling their eyes, they are apologizing but they haven’t come to their senses. When a child says
sorry hurriedly and repeatedly to avoid a punishment, they too are not coming from the place of
the senses. When a politician apologises after being caught, the apology is generally an attempt
at damage limitation. These are all tactics. They are not examples of coming to your senses.
Everyone knows when an apology comes from the senses, because it truly hurts in the telling.
Coming to your senses is the beginning of hope, not the depth of despair, and while it is painful
at the time, there is a better person emerging.
We need to accept the fact that we are all prodigal children who have squandered our inheritance
from our Father. There is a spiritual famine even in countries with a booming economy. Because
of this spiritual famine, we resemble the younger son who lived with pigs. Examples of this
spiritual famine can be seen in drug and alcohol abuse, fraud and theft in the workplace, murders,
abortions and violence, marital infidelity, as well as in hostility among and between people.
Sometimes this “spiritual famine” exists in our own families and can be seen when we condemn
some of our family members to “survival-level” existence, and even contribute to the death of
some of them by refusing to associate with them. Let us accept the fact that we have been
squandering God’s abundant blessings not only in our country and in our families, but also in our
Lent is a time to “pass over,” from a world of sin to a world of reconciliation. The story of the
prodigal son asks each of us an important question:
“Will you accept the Father’s forgiveness and partake of the banquet, or will you remain
Lent is a time to transform hatred into love, conflict into peace, death into eternal life. The
message of Lent then, is, “We implore you, in Christ’s name: be reconciled to God,” as St. Paul
The first step, of course, is to do as the younger son did: “When he came to himself, he said: ‘I
will break away and return to my father, and say to him, “Father, I have sinned against you.” At
every Mass, we come to our loving Heavenly Father’s house as prodigal children.
We begin the Mass acknowledging that we have sinned and have closed our hearts to God’s
perfect love: (“I no longer deserve to be called your child, so do with me as you will”).
Next, we listen to the Word that heals our broken and imperfect relationships with God (“say the
Word and I shall be healed“).
In the Offertory, we give ourselves back to the Father, and this is the moment of our surrendering
our sinful lives to God our Father.
At the consecration, we hear God’s invitation through Jesus: “… this is My Body, which will be
given up for you… this is the chalice of My Blood … which will be poured out for you…” (”All I
have is yours”).
In Holy Communion, we participate in God’s feast of reconciliation, the Holy Eucharist, the gift
of unity with God and with His whole family. Here, we experience again the fully loving, give-
and-take relationship with Him and His family, our restored brothers and sisters whom God gave
us first in our Baptism.
Let us come to the house of God as often as we can to be reconciled with God, our forgiving
Father, by asking His pardon and forgiveness, and to enjoy the Eucharistic banquet of
reconciliation and acceptance He has prepared for us, His returned prodigal sons and daughters.
We need to accept the loving offer of our Heavenly Father: “All I have is yours”.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
Robert Frost in “Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening”
Faraway hills and forest look green; there are many attractions in life; there are many voices
saying to us, “Follow me,” or “Follow your desires and you will find happiness.” But the best
and the only real offer of lasting happiness is from God our Father, “All I have is yours.” God
our Heavenly Father stands outside our door waiting for us to open it to Him. For the remainder
of Lent, let us try to make every effort to answer that invitation from our Heavenly Father, “All I
have is yours.” Each Lent offers us sinners a chance to return home with a confession of sins,
where we will find His welcome and open-armed love. Such a confession will enable us
to hasten toward Easter with the eagerness of Faith and love, and it will make possible the
rejoicing which today’s liturgy assures us in our Lord’s words: “There is more joy in Heaven
over the one sinner who does penance than over the ninety-nine just who do not need penance.”