“Your sins are forgiven. Go in peace.”

Seven hundred years before Jesus was born, there was a prophet who had a most difficult task. His name was Hosea and he was expected to convert his own people. And we all know that a prophet is not accepted in his own country. The Lord told Hosea to tell the people to stop worshipping false gods and to return to the God of Truth, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

When Hosea arrived in town the people said, “Don’t talk to us because we won’t listen.” “Why not?” he said. “Because you are not married.” They said. “You seem to be misinformed.” Hosea said. “I am married and I have three children. My wife is not with me right now. She found a boyfriend and ran away. I don’t know where she is. Every day I walk down the back roads and search for her. I want her to come back to me. Most guys would have given up on her by now. But I don’t give up. I keep searching for her. I sing while I search. I sing: Come back to me with all your heart.”

Then Hosea shocked his audience by saying, “You people are just like my wife.” They quickly denied it. They said, “There is no comparison. Your wife is chasing after a stranger; but we never do any chasing.” “Oh yes you do.” Hosea said. “You do a lot of chasing. You chase after false gods. When the wheat is growing, you abandon the Lord your God and worship the goddess of wheat. When the grapes are growing you worship the god of wine. When the soil is dry you worship the goddess of rain. You are not faithful to the Lord your God, the one who gave you life and now sustains your life.

“So we made a mistake.” They said. “Who cares?” “Well the Lord your God cares.” Hosea said. “He goes out searching for you every day. The Lord says, ‘Come back to me with all your heart.’ God is still faithful to you.” Then they said to Hosea, “Go away. Just go away. We don’t like your pious talk” Hosea was sad when he left that town. But his sadness turned into joy because he found his wife the very next day. He received her with open arms and welcomed her back to his house. From that day forward Hosea was confident that his people would return to the Lord. He was sure that they would have a reunion with the Lord just as he had a reunion with his wife.

I share that Old Testament story with you today because it runs parallel to today’s Gospel. The prodigal son runs away. His father stands at the gate every day waiting for him to return. The prodigal son finally repents and returns and his father celebrates his return with a party. Within every parable someone represents God and in this case the father represents God. Just like the father in the story, God is always loyal to us when we run away. And God always welcomes us back when we repent.

And this story runs parallel with many other New Testament stories about people who repent. Matthew was a tax collector and he was always cheating people. Jesus was very happy when he repented and became one of his disciples. Jesus has joy in his heart when people repent. In today’s Gospel he says that there is great joy in heaven every time that a sinner repents.

Chapter 7 of Luke’s Gospel tells us about a sinful woman who repented. Then she proceeded to wash the feet of Jesus and dry them with her hair. Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven. Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”

Zaccheus was a tax collector and he was always cheating people. After he repented he paid everyone back four times as much as he had defrauded them. Jesus said to him, “I’m happy for you because I came to save those who are lost.”

The bottom line is this: We all have sins and we all need to repent. And if we repent Jesus will save us because He came to save the prodigal son and all those who are lost.

Today let’s focus on just one kind of sin: the sins that we commit in the realm of speech. Sins like lying and swearing and gossip and abusive language. We need to repent of those sins. And if we do, Jesus will say to us, “Your sins are forgiven. Go in peace.” His message is always the same: “Your sins are forgiven. Go in peace.”

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