Saturday, April 2, 2022


Grade 6 - 1955-1956 (age 11-12) 
Grade 7 - 1956-1957 (age 12-13) 
Grade 8 - 1957-1958 (age 13-14)
First Year of St. Thomas Seminary High School
1958-1959 (age 14-15)

Sunday, March 27, 2022


March 27, 2022
St. Leonard Church

While the boy was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, ran to his son, embracing and kissing him.

Luke 15

If, for some unknown reason, every copy of the New Testament were to be lost, except for this one story, we would have a wonderful summary of the essence of everything that Jesus taught.  If you do not "get" that message behind this story, you don't "get" what Jesus was all about! In my book, it's that simple!

This has to be the most comforting message that Jesus ever delivered to human beings. It contains not just "good news," but “good news" that is nearly "incredible."

I am so convinced that many Catholics have never really grasped its message that I have spent the last fifty-two years of my life trying my best to share it with as many people as possible. When it comes to God's love, I believe that most Catholics, unfortunately, believe that God loves us when we are good, quits loving us when they are bad and starts loving us again when we shape up! That is wrong, wrong, wrong! That belief is contrary to the fundamental truth revealed in this parable!

What this story tells us is that God's love for us is unconditional - no ands, if or buts about it! God's love for us cannot be turned on and off by our behavior - be it good or bad! Yes, God wants us to be good, but God doesn't quit loving us, no matter what we do or fail to do! Yes, it is true that we end up having to suffer the consequences of our bad behaviors, but God's love for us is always there through thick and thin!

First of all, to understand this parable, we need to quit referring to it as the "Parable of the Prodigal Son" and start referring to it as the "Parable of the Loving Father." The hero of the story is not the son who repents and reforms, but the father who loved both his sons – the one who stayed home and did his duty as well as the one who left home, blew his inheritance and got down with the pigs!  

Next, we are told why Jesus told this story.  It was originally meant to teach some self-righteous religious leaders, who thought they knew it all, a few things about God. We are told that "tax collectors and sinners," meaning the scum of Jewish society, were flocking to listen to Jesus. This outraged some the religious authorities who complained bitterly that Jesus not only welcomed such "trash" to listen to him - he even accepted invitations to their homes for dinner!  

To get the point of this story, you are supposed to understand that "the father" represents God, the "younger son" represents the "tax collectors and sinners" and the "older son" represents "religious authorities." Let me walk you through the story and look at each character closely because the details of the story tell us so much.


When the younger son says that he wanted his share of his father's estate, what that means is that he really wants his father dead so he can have his money! In spite of his son's audacity and greed, the father loves his greedy young son so much that he was willing to give him his inheritance even before he dies! As if that was not outrageous enough, that silly young son takes his fathers hard-earned money, money that took a life-time to accumulate, and proceeds to "go through it" in no time!  Having blown all of his inheritance, this disaster of a young son sinks to the lowest level that a Jewish person could sink. He is driven to get a job working for a Gentile pig farmer! Gentiles were considered unloved by God and pigs were unclean animals that Jews were forbidden to eat. That was about as low as a young Jewish man at that time could sink!   

Having finally hit bottom, the young boy comes to his senses and decides to go back home and ask for forgiveness, and if taken in, to take the job of a slave on his father's farm. With that plan in mind, the young son heads home. Before he can reach the house and deliver his rehearsed speech asking forgiveness, his father catches sight of him from the porch from which he had been watching every day his son had been gone, runs to meet him! No Jewish father would ever do that for a wayward son, much less smother him with hugs and kisses, put a robe and shoes on him, welcome him back and throw a big welcome home party! That elaborate welcome happens before the young son has time to even mention the words, "I'm sorry!" Talk about unconditional love and generous forgiveness!


The older son was the "good one," the one who stayed home and did everything his father expected of him. He may have been your classic workaholic, doing more than was required. When this older son saw the special treatment his young no-good brother was getting from his father, after having blown his father's money whoring around in the big city, he was enraged with jealousy and sank into a major pouting episode. The older son refused to forgive his brother and to attend his brother's welcome home party! By not going to the party and by holding a grudge, the older son and the younger son both became disappointments to their father. In the eyes of the father, both sons needed forgiveness and mercy and both enjoyed his unconditional love.    


The father is the real hero of the story. He consistently loves both sons, whether it was the younger son with his sin of greed and selfishness or the older son and his sin of pride and self-righteousness. In the eyes of the father, both had acted crazy! In the eyes of the father, both were offered forgiveness and unconditional love. The father's love for his two sons, like God's love for us, is amazingly unconditional.


The story was originally addressed to religious authorities, the older son types who objected to the welcome Jesus gave sinners and who were outraged that he was so reckless with God's love in his teaching.  In the audience that day, listening in, were the younger son types, who could not believe their ears that Jesus' was teaching that God's love was available even for them! 


My fellow Catholics! There are some in the Church who hate this story. They are usually the older son types - good people who have tried to be good all their lives. They go to church, follow the rules and would never do any of the things the younger son would do - even though in their thoughts they would love to do those things and maybe even more! They are the ones who hate it when I preach about God's unconditional love. They have told me that they would rather hear sermons condemning sin and sermons about God's punishment. They have told me that they are very disappointed that I don't rant and rave against sin. I am honored that they would lump me in the same category as Jesus, as a "man who welcomes sinners and eats with them!" It's not enough for them to know that "good people" are loved by God, they want all those "bad people" condemned and punished. 

There are some in the Church, usually on its margins, who find this story so amazing that they have a hard time believing it. They know they have failed, but many times they don't know that God loves them anyway. When they hear this message clearly, they are completely overwhelmed with joy and find it almost too good to be true. They know that they have suffered the effects of their sins and bad decisions, but they still expect God to want to punish them. They know sin has its consequences, but they are amazed that God's forgiveness has always been there. Instead of a God thumping his foot on the porch waiting for them to come home, they are amazed to hear that he is willing to run out to meet them, smother them with kisses and throw a welcome "home party" for the likes of them!  That is precisely why we call Jesus' words to us today "good news" and that's why so many people find this truth so "unbelievable!" 

Fellow Catholics, know this! No matter what mistakes you have made or what sins you have committed, God loves you! He is sitting on his porch, even now, watching the road and waiting for you to come back home. He is not interested in shaming you, condemning you or punishing you! You have probably already done that to yourself! He just wants to shower you with love and move on together with you! If you've been gone for a while, come home this Lent and let God give you a big bear hug! No questions asked! This is not true because I said so in this homily, this is true because Jesus said so in today's parable! To paraphrase an old Delta Airlines slogan, "He's ready when you are!"