FOURTH SUNDAY OF LENT YEAR C
Today’s readings invite us to rejoice by being reconciled with God through repentance and the confession of our sins and by celebrating our coming home to be with our loving and forgiving God. In the Gospel, the joy is that of a young son’s “coming home,” where he discovers and is healed by the reality of his father’s forgiving and gratuitous love. It is also the story of a loving and forgiving father who celebrates the return of his prodigal son by throwing a big party in his honor, a banquet celebrating the reconciliation of the son with his father, his family, his community and his God. It is the Parable of the Forgiving Father, the story of Divine love and mercy for us sinners, a love that is almost beyond belief. The common theme of joy resulting from reconciliation with God and other human beings is announced to all of us present in this Church ready to receive God’s forgiveness and His Personal Presence as a forgiving God in the Holy Eucharist.
The father symbolizes the loving and unconditionally forgiving Heavenly Father who is excessive, extravagant and generous with His forgiveness and mercy. Mirroring our Heavenly Father, Jesus, too, squanders his love on those who need it most. Although the story of the prodigal son is often given as an example of repentance, it is actually the story of how God forgives and heals the repentant sinner. Like God, the father in the parable was ready to forgive both of his “sinful” sons even before they repented. St. Thomas Aquinas explains that God already forgives us as soon as we repent, even before we go to confession or perform any penance. The forgiveness the father offers in the parable parallels the forgiveness God offers in real life. That is why Jesus in the Gospels frequently describes God more like a defense attorney than a prosecuting attorney.
Lent is a time to “pass over,” from a world of sin to a world of reconciliation. Lent is a time to transform hatred into love, conflict into peace, death into eternal life. God our Heavenly Father stands outside our door waiting for us to open it to Him. For the remainder of Lent, let us try to make every effort to answer that invitation from our Heavenly Father, “All I have is yours.” Each Lent offers us sinners a chance to return home with a confession of sins, where we will find His welcome and open-armed love. Such a confession will enable us to hasten toward Easter with the eagerness of Faith and love, and it will make possible the rejoicing which today’s liturgy assures us in our Lord’s words: “There is more joy in Heaven over the one sinner who does penance than over the ninety-nine just who do not need penance.”
While we go through this time of Lent, the time of self-introspection, evaluation, purification and self-mortification, today we remind ourselves that ultimately, all of these are for a singular purpose, and that is for us to embrace the hope in the joy that is to come, the true joy that comes with our reconciliation with God, Who loves each and every one of us, that He wants us all to be reconciled with Him, and to be forgiven from our sins. We are looking forward to the true joy of being reunited fully with God, our loving Father, which is the joy of the Resurrection, the joy of Easter. Let us all make this our commitment to live more in accordance to the path that God has shown us. Let us embrace with joy and with courage the mercy and love that He has offered so generously before us. Let us all keep strong to this hope we have in Christ, Our Lord and Savior, Who has come to us to show us the fullness of God’s everlasting love and mercy towards us.