I was trying to think of what a modern-day experience would be like for the prodigal son who went off and squandered his life, on a life of dissipation. And we hear from his brother, he wasted the property and the money on prostitutes. As I heard that word, I thought of Pretty Woman. I don’t know if you remember that movie back in 1990, but the Broadway show just came through Cleveland; I think it might have a couple more days. But Pretty Woman tells the story of a prostitute. It tells the story from the prostitute’s angle of what it is like. And it begins in one of the seediest places you could find at the time. In the play they had the Hollywood signs, but from the back, so you were looking at the back of Hollywood. And so it took place on the streets of Hollywood; with the whole scene that was going on back at the time with prostitution, drug addiction, alcoholism, all of those things that we think of when we think of dissipation.
When the girl, I don’t remember, Vivian, when Vivian, who was played by Julia Roberts, begins to enter into that life of prostitution she has a friend that coaches her and her friend tells her a couple important rules. The friend says to her, the first rule is; you decide who, where, and when and nobody tells you what to do and the second rule is never kiss them on the mouth. Because if you kiss them on the mouth you might fall in love with them. And so we begin just to kind of enter into this life of dissipation, you know where people go when they are broken and bottomed out, emotionally physically, and spiritually. Then we have the character, who is played by Richard Gere in the movie. We have the character that goes down there. He is a millionaire, a businessman and he goes down there by accident. He is lost and he is asking for directions. Who would be there on the side of the road but Pretty Woman herself. And so, he asks her for directions and he said, “How do I get back up to Hollywood Hills?” She said “it will cost five bucks” and he said, “five bucks for directions?” and she says, “yeah, now it’s going to cost you ten.” He says “how can you charge me for directions?” and she says to him, “well you’re lost and I’m not” and she turns to walk away and he says, “wait a minute, wait a minute, I’ll pay you for directions”. She then ends up getting in the car with him to actually drive him there.
If you know the story you know that the two of them hit it off and so it turns out to be a weekend where he just pays her primarily for her just to be with him. He just wants somebody to talk to, he wants some kind of companionship and they spend their time together. She goes from absolute destitute poverty; can’t pay her rent, to living in the most expensive hotel there is in Hollywood. And not only that, but he tells her, “look you’re going to be with me all week and so I need you to look good”. So, he hands her the credit card and he says to her, “you go to whatever shop you want and you buy the best things you can buy, and I need you to have enough clothes for a week”. She is just coming from the street, didn’t have money for food or her next meal and now she has this lavish lifestyle. She goes out to try to buy clothes and she’s rejected by the shop owners. She goes into one of the stores and she asks how much is this dress and they say, “that dress isn’t for you, it won’t fit you”. She says, “I didn’t ask if it would fit me, I asked how much is this dress?” She looks at the other lady and she says, “it’s too expensive for you and actually we are going to have to ask you to leave and so she‘s thrown out of there”.
When Richard finds out about this, he takes her on his own, he takes a day off work and he takes her to the finest stores in all of Hollywood. He takes her to Rodeo Drive and gets her the finest clothing, the finest wear. There is that classic scene where he gets her the diamond necklace and when he goes to open it, she goes to touch it and he slaps it shut and she laughs. He dresses her lavishly for the first time in her life, she experiences that there might be another way to live than the way that she has been living. As the movie progresses, you know it’s a Disney movie by the way, they fall in love with each other. One night he is sleeping in after they just had a good week together. He’s falling asleep and she looks at him and she can’t stop looking at him and she breaks the second rule. She kneels over and she kisses him on the lips. It’s a Disney princess movie after all. She kisses him on the lips and breaks that rule and finds out that she falls in love with him. After that there’s some turbulence, some highs and lows, but in the end he is kind of like the prince and whisks her off away and that’s what she’s always desired.
In the Gospel today we hear about this prodigal son that goes and squanders everything. So, he goes off to a distant land and he squanders everything he wastes everything that he has in a matter of days or months on prostitution and anything else he can find at that time. He finds himself totally destitute. There is an interesting phrase in here, ‘he comes to his senses’. So, he’s able to come to his senses and realize, this is not my life, this is not where I belong. The truth is we all can be the Prodigal Son. Maybe at different times of your life you were more prodigal than other, maybe as you went through high school or college and then at some point God drew you back to himself. But even now in our hearts, we can stray from God. We can go to those distant lands. And that’s what this season of Lent is for, it’s a time of repentance, it’s a time for coming home to the Father. We try to offer a confession numerous times so that everybody has the opportunity to go to confession during Lent; so we can have this homecoming, this return to the Father.
Now when the son comes home and the Father sees him from a long distance. What that means is that the father has been waiting for his son to come home this whole time. Every night he probably looked out into the distance for his son. Thinking he was probably dead. Maybe you have a prodigal child in your life, maybe you have a child that is away from you. A child that you might not even know how they are doing. Maybe you have an estranged family member, a brother or sister, someone that is just unreachable to you. So the father realizes that his son could be dead and he looks out every night. One evening he sees his son off in the distance. When he sees his son he does something extraordinary. This is an elderly man. He physically runs to his son cause he’s so excited, embraces him, wraps him in his arms and he kisses him. He kisses his son because there is so much love there and then before his son can even say anything more he orders the servants to bring the finest clothes.
So just like a pretty woman, to dress him up as beautiful as he can be, to put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet, and slaughter the fattened calf and rejoice because this son of mine was dead, he was lost and has been found. I want to talk about the specialness of this kiss. The God your Father, who creates you and created you and continues to create you, loves you so much and in a sense, we hold on to this kiss until our final ultimate love who is God, kisses us and when he kisses us, we experience what it is like to be true love.
Marriage is a sacrament; so all of you who are married, you husbands and wives who are married together and you kiss each other, are sacraments of God’s love for us. That God wants to do the same for us and each one of us he loves and desires to kiss. And so I think it’s important just to access our lives during lent and think about that. Is there any sin that is happening in our lives and needs to be forgiven? Have we strayed from God at all, maybe even those watching online, have we not been back to mass when we know that God is calling us back here? This can be that time to come to him, because in confession we get to experience that intimacy with God. He uses his servants, us Priests, to speak the words of absolution in the laying the hands on you is the sign of God’s embrace, the coming down the kiss of the Holy Spirit.
When we sin, we die. All of us have sinned in some way, all of us have broken our Father’s hearts on what we have wasted his grace upon. So the season of Lent is the opportunity to return to him once more, to experience him running to us, embracing us, kissing us, giving us the finest clothing, a ring on our finger, sandals on our feet, so that we can no longer be dead but alive in his grace. So if it’s been a while since you’ve confessed maybe this is your time. For those watching if you have been away from the church maybe this is your time to return to him. So we can all be treated with true dignity as we truly are Sons & Daughters of Christ.