“Father, I have sinned against Heaven and before you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” Luke 15:18-19
The Gospel reading for the third Sunday of Lent is the parable of the prodigal son, (Luke 15:11-32). This Gospel reading teaches us about repentance in the Father’s bosom.
The prodigal son “comes to himself” (Luke 15:17) and realizes his sins and wrong ways. As a result, he repents and returns home to his father after having lived an immoral life.
This is a message of hope to every soul that suffers from the sorrow and wretchedness of a sinful life. The Prodigal Son was sorrowful over his sin, but his sorrow was godly sorrow. Therefore, it caused him to repent, leading to salvation, not to be regretted. It is the sorrow, which the Holy Spirit talks about through St. Paul’s writings, “Now I rejoice, not that you were mad sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing. For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death” (2 Cor. 7:9-10).
The prodigal son leaves his father’s house an arrogant person, who demanded his inheritance (Luke 15:11), and he returns home a humble person only wanting to be a servant in his father’s house (Luke 15:19).
This parable tells us how the father received his returning son; he is a loving father who accepts his son unconditionally without any questions. “But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him… But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his and hand sandals on his feet. And bring the fatted calf and kill her, and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ And began to be merry” (Luke 15:20-24). These are the gracious gifts of the Father, by which the Lord honors and nourishes those who abide with Him, and also those who return to Him and repent.
The Lenten journey is actually one of purification and correction of our lives for it is a journey of repentance. If the sun of temptation burns us and sin humiliates us, and we weaken when facing temptations, we should not lose hope. Despite our sins, our Lord sees a beauty in us. He shows us the road to repentance so we may joyfully walk through it, and when we return to Him, He receives us with great joy.
During Great Lent, we sorrow for repentance; it is a sorrow, which produces repentance without regret, for it leads to salvation. It is a joyful sorrow, one in which we experience the joy of salvation (Ps. 51:12). This sorrow for repentance leads to joy on earth, as well as in heaven, where “there is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance” (Luke 15:7). Even if we wander away from our Heavenly Father, and even if we journey to a far country, waste our possession with prodigal living, and become in need to eat the pods that swine eat, yet we can look up to our Heavenly Father.