How often we are perplexed and distracted by the setbacks and mishaps of life.  How often we may feel that God is distant and uncaring, because He has not given us what we wished to have at that moment, or taken away something that we cherished.

We may come to ignore the many good things, the abundance of gifts and tender mercies that are taken for granted, and even greater treasures yet to come, to pursue some passion of the moment, some alluring attractions wrapped in pride, selfishness, and self-pity.

We may have already squandered the gifts of God, and cast them aside, and walked away from our loving homes, to pursue the offices and pleasures and glamours of this world.

And so, in the end, we find that we subsist on the unfulfilling food, fit only for pigs, in our anger and delusion, and are left empty, and unsatisfied.   We dwell in disappointment, disillusion, and despairing from those things that we thought would bring us happiness.  And so we are shut off, alienated from those who would have fellowship with us.

But in this sorry state, in our regrets and recollections of our foolishness and weakness, we may come to see that there is still hope for us, still a light shining in the darkness, if we will only take the way to return home,  and try to recover our own true selves again.

We are not animals, like swine, even though we may choose to live and act as such. We are the children of God.  We are His, because He has given us the two greatest gifts that anyone may receive, what makes us human,  and His sons and daughters: repentance and forgiveness.

Let us remember always His faithful and loving presence,  His offering of these gifts to us, and be grateful, and kinder to ourselves, by using them as He has intended us to do.   As

And above all,  remember to extend these same gifts to others, who may be less worthy, and not be like the elder brother, willfully separating ourselves from our father, and sisters, and brothers, by our pride of place and our worldly achievements.

For this is a season of penance and sorrow, that ends in the rich harvest of homecoming and rejoicing, and life.

Tax collectors and notorious sinners were all gathering round to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the experts in the law muttered, ‘This man welcomes sinners, and even eats with them.' And so he told them this story...

‘There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, “Father, give me my share of the estate.” So he divided his property between them.

‘Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

‘When he came to his senses, he said, “How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death!  I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.”  So he got up and went to his father.

‘But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms round him and kissed him.

‘The son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.  I am no longer worthy to be called your son.”

‘But the father said to his servants, “Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate.  For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” So they began to celebrate.

‘Meanwhile, the elder son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. “Your brother has come,” he replied, “and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.”

‘The elder brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, “Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!”

‘“My son,” the father said, “you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.  But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”’