Luke 15:1-32; 4th Sunday of Lent (Laetare Sunday)
To us, Pinoys, it’s inconceivably brazen to ask our parents for our mana while they still live and breathe. Puwede tayong humingi ng puhunan. Puwede ring sabihin, “Dad, pautang muna po.” But never, “Ma, Pa, kunin ko na mana ko ngayon.” Subtext?“Why wait till you’re dead?” Bastos ‘yon. Walang utang na loob. But back in Israel, it was common for a son to advance his inheritance. Fathers were known to grant it. It was seed money, especially because young men would leave the village to set up a life elsewhere and God only knew when or if they’d ever return. Since the parable today is not a Pinoy story, the sin didn’t so much lie in the son advancing his mana before his dad was actually dead. ‘Yung pagwawaldas niya ng biyayang inipon ng magulang niya, ‘yung walang patumanggang pag-aaksaya niya sa biyayang pinagpawisan ng ama niya, ‘yon. D’on, magkakasundo tayong mga Pinoy at Hudyo. Isang malaking kasalanan ‘yon ang waldasin at aksayahin ang biyayang hindi natin pinaghirapan, kaloob na ipinagkatiwala sa atin, lalo na ng isang taong mahal na mahal tayo.
This father’s greatest wealth were his children. They meant more to him than his money ever did. Why else did he part with it so easily? Like I hear many good parents today, this father must have also said: “‘E para sa’n pa ba ‘yang perang ‘yan? ‘E ‘di para sa mga anak ko rin.” So, he trusted and entrusted.
Now what eventually happened to the son? He lost everything. Probably went into debt. In the Lord’s time, you became beholden to your creditor until you paid the last shekel. So, the son must’ve been drafted into what sounded like slavery. First, he fed pigs, which Jews themselves would not only not eat but not even look at for fear of impurity of the eyes. Second, remember how the son walked barefoot back to his village? Slaves were often unshod to keep them from running away. But see, the point is, hitting rock bottom like that was not punishment from the father. All this time, the father was blissfully unaware of his son going from slave of desires to slave of pigs. No; the waste of a man this son was reduced to, he brought that punishment upon himself; parusa sa pagwawaldas ng grasya lalung-lalo na ng magulang.
Sisters and brothers, you know, the older I get, the more convinced I am that most of the avoidable troubles that befall us, comfortable, privileged, fortunate people—we really bring them upon ourselves. The transgressions that we instigate, which then boomerang and cut us? We often blithely say, they’re our just deserts dealt by God for our iniquities. But you know, just as we fault the devil too hastily for our sins, we just as thoughtlessly attribute to God punishment for them. But don’t you notice that either way, we cut ourselves loose from the responsibility, as though we’re mere victims, helpless pawns in the never-ending war between evil and good, wicked and kind, fake and true. I don’t think that anymore. I used to. In both my own life and in the experiences of friends, the devil doesn’t often have anything to do with our willful misbehavior, any more than God has anything to do with the pestering consequences that we suffer. I remember one guest priest who celebrated mass for our San Jose seminarians. He was talking about simplicity of life. He said, “Tandaan ninyo: walang paring namamatay sa gutom. Pero maraming paring namamatay sa busog!” And we all laughed because it was funny. But it was really sobering, because it was so true, embarrassingly enough. Marami sa ating mga nakaluluwag sa buhay, komportable, makapangyarihan, pari man o hindi, hindi gutom o malas ang ikinadurusa natin, kundi labis na kabusugan sa biyaya at ang ating pagwawaldas at pag-aaksaya nito. Biyaya ng oras, panahon, kapangyarihan, talino, impluwensiya; biyaya ng salapi. Much of our avoidable personal calamities happen not because of misfortune and dearth, but because of blessings and plenty…which we squander.
Pero tingnan n’yo po ang Diyos natin, na lagi nating sinasabing nagpaparusa, nagpaparusa, nagpaparusa. Kabaliktaran: bigay pa rin siya nang bigay. Kaloob pa rin nang kaloob. That’s why my favorite part in the parable was when the son was practicing a speech he was going to deliver once he got home. He was almost sure his father would ask for an accounting, and nothing that he could ever do or say would add up. Kaya praktis siya. “I’ll go home and say to my dad, ‘Father, (a) I have sinned against heaven and against you, (b) I am no longer worthy to be called your son, and (c) treat me as one of your slaves.”
So, the guy walks back. The father runs and meets him halfway. Hugs him. Showers him with kisses. Then, he says, “Dad, wait lang. I have a speech. Dad, I have sinned against heaven and against you (a). I’m a shame to you as your son (b). And before he could impose on himself his own punishment—a clear anbd fantastic sign of sincere repentance (c), his dad cuts him short. His dad cuts him loose! “Give this man a pair of sandals (no longer a slave), robe his back (like a prince), band his finger (he’s an heir again), mag-inihaw ng baka tayo! Because I lost my wealth and now he’s back, and I am rich again.”
“So, Fr. Arnel, kung ganon pala, ‘e ‘di dapat patawarin na rin natin ang mga nagwaldas at nagsayang ng pera ng bayan. Kasi sabi mo nga, mapagpatawad ang Diyos! O, ‘e tayo pa kayang mga tao lamang?” Uhmm, sa kwento po kasi ni Hesus, ser, nagsisi po ‘yung anak. Nagbalik-loob sa ama. Nagsabi ng totoo. At nagtangka pang parusahan ang sarili, unmistakable proof of his sincere desire to be forgiven. I’m sure God will find it in his heart of infinite mercy to forgive even the worst plunderers in the world, yes. But we have the moral responsibility of making them face the consequences of their crime. They transgressed not just the Father in heaven. As they made themselves rich, they made thousands of others poor. And God loves the poor and will vindicate the poor. And so must we.
*Image from rewired.com