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Micah 7:14-15, 18-20

With shepherd’s crook, O Lord, lead your people to pasture,
the flock that is your heritage,
living confined in a forest
with meadow land all around.
Let them pasture in Basham and Gilead
as in the days of old.
As in the days of old when you came out of Egypt
grant us to see wonders.
What god can compare with you: taking fault away,
pardoning crime,
not cherishing anger for ever
but delighting in showing mercy?
Once more have pity on us,
tread down our faults,
to the bottom of the sea
throw all our sins.
Grant Jacob your faithfulness,
and Abraham your mercy,
as you swore to our fathers
from the days of long ago.

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Luke 15:1-3, 11-32

The tax collectors and the sinners were all seeking the company of Jesus to hear what he had t say, and the Pharisees and the scribes complained, “This man,” they said, “welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So he spoke this parable to them:

“A man had two sons. The younger said to his father, ‘Father, let me have the share of the estate that would come to me.’ So the father divided the property between them. A few days later, the younger son got together everything he had and left for a distant country where he squandered his money on a life of debauchery.

“When he had spent it all, that country experienced a severe famine, and now he began to feel the pinch, so he hired himself out to one of the local inhabitants who put him on his farm to feed the pigs. And he would willingly have filled his belly with the husks the pigs were eating but no one offered him anything. Then he came to his senses and said, ‘How many of my father’s paid servants have more food than they want, and here am I dying of hunger! I will leave this place and go to my father and say: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I no longer deserved to be called your son; treat me as one of your paid servants.’ So he left the place and went back to his father.

“While he was still a long way of, his father saw him and was moved with pity. He ran to the boy, clasping him in his arms and kissed him tenderly. Then his son said, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants. ‘Quick! Bring out the best robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the calf we have been fattening, and kill it; we are going to have a feast, a celebration because this son of mine was dead and has come back to life; he was lost and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.

Now the elder son was out in the fields, and on his way back, as he drew near the house, he could hear music and dancing. Calling one of the servants he asked what it was all about. ‘Your brother has come,’ replied the servant, ‘and your father has killed the calf we had fattened because he has got him back safe and sound.’ He was angry then and refused to go in, and his father came out to plead with him; but he answered his father, ‘Look, all these years I have slaved for you and never once disobeyed your orders, yet you never offered me so much as a kid for me to celebrate with my friends. But, for this son of yours, when he comes back after swallowing up your property - he and his women - you kill the calf we had been fattening.’

“The father said, ‘My son, you are with me always and all I have is yours. But it was only right we should celebrate and rejoice, because your brother here was dead and has come to life; he was lost and is found.’”
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Being a cradle Catholic and having been brought up in the Catholic faith all my life, I must admit that I often feel a tinge of jealousy every Easter, when so much attention is showered on the catechumens who would soon be baptized into the Catholic faith. I wonder why they are given so much attention - these sinners who have been away from the Catholic church for all their lives - and now when they come to the church, they are treated as VIPs. What about all the other faithful Catholics who have been practising their faith all their lives? How come they never get this kind of special treatment?

So in this sense, I understand where the elder son is coming from, and I understand what the Pharisees and the scribes are coming from. But this parable, often called “The Parable of the Prodigal Son” should more appropriately be called “The Parable of the Loving Father” for as we see, right in the beginning, the focus of the story is not the younger son, nor the elder son, but the loving Father.

This loving father gives to his sons whatever is requested of him, even something as outrageous as an inheritance while he is still alive. And when his younger son returns, it is not because the younger son has repented of his sins. He returns because he wants food, a purely materialistic and practical reason. But the father doesn’t care. All he cares is that his son, once lost, has returned to him.

In other words, our heavenly Father does not care for what reason we return to him after having sinned. It could be a reason that is not pure and holy, but the important thing to our heavenly Father is that we have returned.

We see in the parable that it is wholly possible to be by the side of our heavenly Father all our lives, but not in communion with him, like the elder son. Just like how I, as a cradle Catholic, can be a Catholic all my life, but not see and experience the joy of the baptisms that take place at Easter. Perhaps I will never understand the joy that the newly baptized experience at Easter, because it is something that I’ve never experienced nor will I get to experience. And I am jealous. I am jealous that they who have not been Catholics all their lives, should get to experience this joy which I, who has been a Catholic all my life, never gets to experience.

Now of course I shouldn’t be feeling this way, but I cannot deny my feelings either. The loving Father who loves both his sons equally, but in different ways… the loving Father who runs to meet his returning lost son is the same loving Father who goes out to meet his jealous elder son, and plead with him to come into the house.

Yes, the emphasis is neither on the reasons why the newly baptized wish to be baptized, nor on the jealousy that cradle Catholics may feel towards the newly baptized. The emphasis is on the loving Father who loves both newly baptized and cradle Catholics equally, but in different ways. And it is right that we rejoice whenever a non-Catholic experiences a conversion experience, and when a cradle Catholic experiences a turning point in his or her faith, because both are returning to their loving Father.
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Prayer:
Heavenly Father, help us to see and to experience your generous love for us, regardless of whether we are newly baptized or cradle Catholics. Help us to be in communion with you to celebrate the joy you experience whenever one of your children returns to you, for whatever the reason. Amen.

Give Thanks to the Lord for: The generous love our heavenly Father, and the richness of the experiences brought to the church by the newly baptized.

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