4th Sunday of Lent: Year C.
Commentary Theme for this Sunday:
“Saved By The Faithfulness And
Saved By The Love Of The Father.”
The first reading prepares the message contained in the Gospel. The people of Israel did not reach the land of freedom by themselves, they were not saved by their own strength; they were guided by the love and faithfulness of God.
The second reading is an invitation to accept reconciliation with God and to the other members of the community, and is thus in harmony with the theme of the Sunday.
In the Gospel, the younger son of the parable did not find his way home by himself – he was led back by the freely-given love of his father. The other son who never left home was lost as much as his brother. Do we identify with either of these sons? Don’t we find in ourselves something of the younger one, but something too of the elder? Many of us think differently to the Father; what can we change to be more compassionate?
It is recommended that the actual readings are first studied and then meditated upon with a prayer to the Holy Spirit to grant you the gift of ‘wisdom’ to understand the meaning of the messages of Love, Forgiveness and the Offer of Salvation that the Lord has for each one of us in the Holy Bible.
These commentaries, which have been extracted and summarised for our meditation, are from the published works of priests who have, by their Divine inspiration, become acclaimed scholars of the Scriptures and generally reflect the Church’s understanding of the readings.
These commentaries are not meant to replace the Sunday Homily at Holy Mass but are provided as an additional guide to assist and further enhance our understanding of the Sunday Liturgical Readings.
‘Daily Reflections’ and a Prayer are included to enable us to ‘Live the Word’ during the week following the Sunday Mass. We will begin to understand the meaning of gratuitous love and our life’s true purpose. Through His Word, we will follow the Light to help fulfil the mission that has been given to each one of us by our Creator.
“Allow the Spirit of God to break the chains that keep us from understanding and accepting the word of God.”
Before leaving Egypt, the people of Israel had celebrated a great feast, the Pasch. They had kept vigil for the whole night, had eaten the lamb and then, in the dark, started their journey towards the land that God had promised to their fathers. Led by Moses, and protected by the Lord, they crossed the Red Sea and entered into the desert, where they were to stay for forty long years. The reading of today is the account of the ‘conclusion’ of this long journey.
Joshua was the successor of Moses as leader of the Israelites, and the Book of Joshua is concerned with the Israelites’ conquest of the land that God had promised them. Like the preceding books of the Bible, Joshua is the result of a long and complex process of editing: putting order into historical memories that had been handed down orally, or in writing, over an extended period of time.
After so much wandering, Israel arrived at Gilgal, in the Jericho plain. They are free and out of the desert at last and are about to take possession of a fertile land. Every family will receive a field to cultivate; they will live on agriculture and sheep-rearing and no longer on manna and poor products of the desert.
God had kept the promises he had made to Abraham. To manifest their great joy, they decided to celebrate again the great feast of the Pasch, Passover, just as their fathers had done on the night they had left Egypt.
There were still many challenges ahead of the Israelites. They had to finish taking possession of the land. Then they had to learn how to live in it in accordance with the covenant they had entered with God. Centuries of history still lay ahead of them, centuries that would bring some successes and many failures. By crossing the Jordan into the land that God was giving them marked the end of an era. Their time of wandering was over. A new epoch was beginning.
This reading is about faithfulness, God’s faithfulness. God had promised family and territory to Abraham. God had promised delivery from slavery through Moses. Now, as the Israelites are encamped on the west bank of the Jordan celebrating Passover, all these promises had been fulfilled. God has proved faithful.
The history of these people is an image of what happens to Christians nowadays. Like the people of Israel, they were also led out of the land of slavery, that is, from the state of sin where they were before baptism, and became children of God. The Hebrews made a great feast at Gilgal to celebrate their liberation; Christians celebrate their salvation in the Eucharist, the sacrament that makes present once more the Passover, the Easter of Christ, his death and his Resurrection.
The Psalm of thanksgiving is associated with David when he pretended to be mad in the court of the Philistine king (1 Sm. 21:11-14), but it suits anyone conscious of divine deliverance, whether the Israelites were saved from the desert, or a younger son reconciled to his father as in the Gospel story.
2 Corinthians 5:17-21.
The theme of this passage is ‘reconciliation’. We find this word five times in the few verses of the reading, and it does not mean only ‘to agree once again with each other’, ‘remove the unfriendliness’, or to ‘be purified of one’s sins’. It implies the birth of a completely new creature.
‘Reconciliation’ with God is not the result of the goodwill of men and women. It is the work of God; he is the one taking up the initiative in order to restore peace. How does this reconciliation take place? It is achieved through the preaching of the Apostles; it is as if God were persuading people through them.
This is why Paul addresses the Christians of Corinth with the heart-rending appeal: “Be reconciled to God, and open up your hearts to the message I am announcing to you!”
Luke 15:1-3, 11-32.
In today’s Gospel, we read one of the most popular stories ever told. The Pharisees and the Scribes think that they are just. They expect Jesus, as a good person, to be close to them rather than to sinners, tax collectors and the outcasts. Jesus tells them three parables, the lost and found sheep (Lk. 15:4-7), the lost and found coin (Lk.15:8-10), and the lost and found sons (Lk. 15:11-32).
All three of them are addressed to the Pharisees and the Scribes and to all those who think themselves better than others and want to dictate the rules to everybody else. In each parable, Jesus shows that God is deeply concerned with those who are sinners. He is happy when they come back to him.
Today’s Gospel compares God to a ‘father’ who loses two sons. One actually leaves the house but comes back later on. The other, who has never left the house, is lost as much as his brother. The father welcomes both of them back as his beloved children to his house with feasting and rejoicing.
This story is often called the parable of the ‘Lost or Prodigal Son’. This can give the incorrect impression that the younger son is the main character of the story. It is linked to the other two stories that preceded it. In both cases, it is the owner of the sheep or of the coin, who is the main character of the story and not the object that was lost. The man or the woman takes the initiative to search and find what they had lost and then to invite others to join in a feast.
In the parable of the ‘Sons’ we hear of the fate of the younger son and the attitude of the elder son, but it is the ‘father’ of the two sons who is the central figure all the time. His relationship of love to the two sons, each lost in a different way, is what is shown throughout the story.
The younger one goes through an inner struggle away from the father. But when he comes back the father accepts him. The elder son has his own struggle to go through in accepting that the father loves him for who he is and not for what he does. Through the parable, Jesus obliges all his hearers, Pharisees and tax collectors alike, to realize that, before God, each person stands as his child.
God does not discriminate in his love. The tax collectors and sinners who know that they are sinners and are despised by everybody else, are just as much children of God as the Pharisees and Scribes, who think that they are more entitled to God’s love because of their fidelity to the law. The parable gives us another image of classifying people as good or bad. God loves them all with infinite compassion. The father says, “He’s my son! He’s your brother!”
This is a hard lesson to learn. But it is one that our world needs desperately to take to heart. In a world wracked by injustice, crime, terrorism and war, where there is so much righteous indignation; so many scores to settle; so much understandable desire to get even – to get revenge. There are real justice issues here. But peace will never come as long as people insist on 100% justice on their terms. Someone has to be willing to walk the extra mile. Someone is going to have to be ready to forgive. Without reconciliation, there can be no peace. This applies to our personal dealings with one another, as well.
Despite their different life journeys, the younger and older sons have the same image of the father. The younger son thinks that the way to return to the father’s good graces is to be treated as a servant; the older one boasts that all these years he has been a faithful servant. Both define sonship in terms of servile obligations; each in their own way destroys the family profile. The story is really a story of the ‘prodigal father’, lavish in love, who shatters the self-understanding of both sons and wants both to be free. St Paul puts it succinctly: “You are no longer slaves but ‘sons and daughters’, and if a son and daughter, then an heir through God”.
Living this parable becomes a challenge for our Lenten journey of return to a loving Father, who breaks through our self-image of ‘servants’, bent on pleasing a ‘demanding master’. This pardoning and prodigal God invites us to a family party, free from aimless wandering and resentful compliance.
Let us pray today that God gives us a little bit of his great big heart. Ask for help to hate the sin and to love the sinner – to overcome the natural urge for vengeance and go for the supernatural virtue of forgiveness.
Not to have sinned is a good thing. But to be able to get up after the fall and to help each other to return to God, is still a ‘greater’ thing.
‘Acknowledgement and Thanks’ to ‘Recommended Source Material’ by:
Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk, Fr. Fernando Armellini SCI, Peter Edmonds SJ, Richard Baawobr M.Afr, Joseph A. Slattery Ph.D, Adelmo Spagnolo MCCJ, Silvester O’Flynn OFM Cap, J.E. Spicer CSsR, John R. Donahue SJ and Alice Camille – Master’s degree in Divinity.
Reflections for each day this Week to lead us in the ‘Way, the Truth and the Life’
Almighty God and Father, on the … of the week following the
4th Sunday of Lent Year C, we reflect on …
Sun. … At Gilgal, God had removed the disgrace and dishonour of slavery against the people of Israel. On the day of the Passover, they ate of the produce from the land that the Lord had given them. God had kept his promise made to Abraham. God had promised delivery from slavery through Moses. Like the people of Israel, we are not saved by our own strength, we are guided to the ‘Promised Land’ by the love, faithfulness and grace of God.
Mon. … As Christians, we too, have been led out of the ‘bonds of slavery’ from the state of sin where we were before baptism. We have our own ‘Gilgal’, that is, our parish, where we celebrate God’s offer of salvation in the Eucharist at every Mass. This sacrament makes present each and every time, the ‘Passover’, God’s gift of love, the sacrifice of his Son on the Cross and the Easter miracle, the Resurrection of our Lord and Saviour.
Tues. … Paul informs us that through our Lord and Saviour and his apostles we have been given the message of reconciliation. The Gospel is one great big message of reconciliation to God and our brothers and sisters. Paul asks us to open up our hearts to God’s word and become a completely new creation. God will take the initiative if we let him. God lovingly invites us to come home. Will we go back home where we belong?
Wed. … Many of us become ‘lost’ in our faith, but in different ways. Some leave the Church to explore alternative beliefs, which promise prosperity without the burden of the cross; others remain in the Church, but never gain a true understanding of the Father’s love and faithfulness and are ‘lost’ to the true richness of the Christian faith. As sinners, we will remember a place of kindness and love, our ‘Father’s house’. Let us repent and go ‘home’ and say a confession of personal responsibility before our Father and towards the human family, our community.
Thur. … Let us offer up a prayer of thanksgiving today to God for his divine deliverance of ourselves lost in faith of the wanderings in the desert of our lives. Jesus has led us out into the Way, the Truth and the Life.
Frid. … Through the parable, Jesus obliges all his hearers, those of us who share the natures of the Pharisees and Tax Collectors alike, to realize that we may be lost; the Father loves us no matter what and always welcomes us back as his lost sons and daughters.
Sat. … We must refrain from righteous indignation and feelings of hatred and revenge. We must never assume that we deserve more than our brothers and sisters. God never discriminates in his love and neither should we. Let us learn to hate the sin and love the sinner. Let us overcome the urge for vengeance and practice the virtue of love and forgiveness to all.
Prayer after the Daily Reflection.
Father, we have been lost to the slavery of sin and the temptations of the world. We have been injured by hatred, aggression and greed in the situations that we have chosen to be connected to. We are now starved of the meaningful things that we took for granted in our lives. In our pain and suffering, we remember a place of kindness and love, our spiritual home, the place You have prepared for us. Father, we repent of our sinfulness and our acts of self-indulgence and wish to come home to Your presence and to the community that we love, the ‘Body of Christ’.
This we ask through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen.
Compliments: Bible Discussion Group. Our Lady of the Wayside, Maryvale.
“Discovering the Truth through God’s living Word”.