4th Sunday of Lent, Year C (2022): Lk 15: 1-3, 11-32
Sunday, March 27, 2022
Homily Notes for the 4th Sunday of Lent, Year C (2022): Lk 15: 1-3, 11-32
· The parable of the Prodigal Son is among the most well known in the Gospels. Yet interestingly only St. Luke makes mention of it while the other evangelists never recall this beautiful teaching about the unconditional love and forgiveness of the Heavenly Father.
· A reoccurring theme that runs through St. Luke’s Gospel is the idea of reuniting the family of God through the boundless mercy of God. This reunion was first and foremost to take place among the Jewish people, who many centuries before had seen their kingdom divided into two.
· This division after the death of King Solomon resulted in the formation of The Kingdom of Judah, the elder brother on account of Jerusalem and its temple being the centre of the kingdom, and the Kingdom of Israel, the younger brother, on account of forming a new capital at Samaria and rival shrines at Bethel and Dan. The kingdoms lived for many centuries side by side until the younger brother, the kingdom of Israel, was conquered by the Assyrians and like the younger brother in the parable carried off into exile into a foreign land where the people began to worship false gods and idols, which the prophets said was akin to the sin of hiring prostitutes.
· The prophets spoke of a time when The Kingdom of Israel would repent of their sins and return to God for mercy, finding in God the Father a welcoming embrace and restoration back to full sonship!
· Part of the message behind Jesus’ parable was to announce that this time of reconciliation had come, since Jesus would provide a way for the lost Kingdom of Israel, and all those who had seduced by idols, namely the gentile nations, to find a way to the Heavenly Father and experience his unconditional love and mercy.
· This is why many scripture scholars see the presence of Jesus in this parable as being neither of the two brothers since he was not guilty of any sin nor hard hearted in forgiving sinners, but is found in the fatted calf who was slaughtered so that a feast could occur to celebrate the reunion of God’s family.
· So it was that Jesus, like the fatted calf, would die on the cross to forgive sins and provide his own flesh and blood in the Eucharist as the celebratory feast that Christians celebrate to show our salvation in Christ and call to bring sinners to repentance that they too might share in this feast after they have been forgiven and lavished with God’s mercy.
· But Jesus warned the crowds that the elder brother, the Kingdom of Judah, would need to soften their hearts in welcoming back those who had gone astray. Jesus was especially warning the Scribes and Pharisees that they were acting very much like the elder brother in the parable, in noting that they had remained faithful to God and His Law, but were unwilling to grant forgiveness to those who had sinned and welcome them back in a loving embrace.
· Though the historical realities of Jesus’ time in which this parable of the prodigal son have passed, this sense of reuniting the family of God is one that will continue to be relevant and important in every time and age. These past 2 years of COVID upturning our lives and causing many divisions between friends and family, to the war in Ukraine and many other armed conflicts around the world that go under-reported, have shown ways families and nations continue to be divided and are in constant need of forgiving one another.
· Like the younger brother, we will always be in need of admitting that we have turned away from God through sin and in doing so often caused great harm to others. This also means we may need to reach out to certain people whom we have harmed with our words or actions, asking that they too forgive us and make an opportunity to reunite and repair a harmed or broken relationship.
· Like the older brother, we will always be in need of asking God to soften our hearts against feelings of unforgiveness and judgment to those who have harmed us and are now asking to be forgiven. It could cost us personally to forgive someone who has harmed us deeply, or who we do not want to forgive or of whom we are suspicious may harm us again or is insincere with their desire to change.
· Like the Father, we will always be in need of acting as the Father did in rejoicing both in welcoming those who wish to be reconciled with us and encouraging those who are struggling to forgive to see in doing so an opportunity to act like the Heavenly Father does in forgiving when it may be very hard for us to do so.
· Traditionally this Sunday is known as Laetare Sunday, or praise the Lord Sunday as a reminder to us that Lent is coming to a conclusion and we will soon once again remember the great mysteries of our salvation in the cross and resurrection of Jesus.
· May our spirit of praise today and in the coming weeks be that we can like the Father in this parable be beacons of forgiveness and mercy to a world that is desperately in need of their healing power to continually bring back together the family of God that is always seeking to be divided by the powers of unforgiveness and hate.