March 31: Second Chances (Lent 4 C)

“Now, we must celebrate and rejoice because your brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.” Luke 15: 1-3, 11-32.

The story of the “prodigal son,” which appears only in Luke’s gospel, is among the most treasured stories in the New Testament. This gospel writer has some key “lost and found” images. For example, the story of the “lost coin” and the “lost sheep” teach us how God’s grace provides restoration, forgiveness, and new life.

Last week, we heard about a barren fig tree and the role of the gardener who, after a brief argument with the owner of the orchard, and with great patience, proper cultivation and time, this fig tree might just come around and give off its delicious fruit.

In this chapter of Luke’s gospel, we are in the middle of a family feud – almost a TV game show. We witness the wastefully extravagant son, the resentful brother, but most of all, the unwavering image of a loving and merciful father offering “second chances” to both his sons.

So then, the passage of time and great mercy can be ingredients for bringing us back and restoring us to life.

At the age of 17, Terun Moore was convicted of murder and sentenced to life without parole. In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that such sentencing of minors was unconstitutional. Now on probation after nineteen years in prison, Terun Moore attends community college in his hometown of Jackson, Mississippi.

On the PBS Newshour, March 18, Terun Moore’s brief commentary on “second chances” deeply moved me. He stated:

On April 2, 1998, I was playing ball at the park, and a couple of neighborhood guys, they were about to commit a robbery. They gave me a gun. They asked me to stand there.

I was 17 and wasn’t thinking about the consequences or whatever. So I held a gun on the dude. He wanted to take it away from me, so he ended up getting shot, and he later died.

They didn’t seek the death penalty since I was 17 years old at the time. So they sentenced me to life without parole.

This was my first time being locked up. And the one person whose lessons always stood out to me was my grandma because no matter about me catching the charge or the family being embarrassed or whatever, she never changed on me. She never treated me any different. And it takes a special person to be able to live like that.

When you get incarcerated, you find out who your friends is. …It is a cruel and unusual punishment to sentence a juvenile to life without parole on his first offense.

[He concludes] My best friend passed away last year, my grandma. And I had to go to the wake in chains and a shackle.”

Yes, this is a profoundly moving commentary, that you will find on my website. Imagine the years of pain, grief, and the burdens on Terun’s family and mostly the loved-ones who had to face the unexpected violence on the victim of this crime.

Today’s gospel reminds us that we are not estranged from God, who offers his mercy and forgiveness, and like Terun’s grandmother extends her tenderness as a sign of the divine presence in their lives.

Lent is a time when we can grow as a person, fully alive with Christ at Easter, thoroughly nourishing the community of faith and forgiveness.

In this gospel passage, we read: “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them,” so must we all welcome sinners and share their lives, such a great lesson about forgiveness and “second chances.”

Rosary Chapel, Santa Catalina School, Monterey, CA.


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