HOMILY OF THE 4TH SUNDAY OF LENT – YEAR C
HOMILY THEME: “I shall get up and go to my father and I shall say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven
and against you.’” (Luke 15:18)
BY: Fr. Robert deLeon, CSC
HOMILY: Luke 15:1-3, 11-32
It was a mystery, the origin of the crack in the passenger’s side windshield of one of our community cars. There seemed no urgency in replacing the windshield, but as summer turned to fall and then to winter, the crack seemed to be migrating, now not only distracting the passenger’s view put also the driver’s.
Finally the day arrived when a stern police officer reminded us of the unlawfulness of the situation. The immediate remedying of the situation delegated to me, I hopped behind the wheel the next morning to drive to our local service center.
Only then did I truly appreciate the danger for, try as I might, my vision was so drawn to the crack in the windshield that I really couldn’t focus on anything else. Aware only peripherally of the cars I was passing and even of the stop sign at which I braked only at the last moment, I just couldn’t fix my sight beyond that thin crack running the length of the windshield. Everything the other side of it was beyond awareness. Within an hour’s time, the windshield was replaced, vision no longer impaired by the defect.
Is there a connection between a cracked windshield and today’s Gospel passage? There is, and it’s this: we are often so focused on our sinfulness that it’s difficult to see beyond to the loving embrace of God. The young repentant sinner of a son was able to see beyond the crack of his sin to his father’s waiting embrace. The older son, though, prisoner of self-righteousness, was unable to see beyond the crack in his brother’s life, could not see the reality that, indeed, the defect had been mended as his brother asked forgiveness and his father wrapped him in arms of welcome.
As Lent began some years back, I finally picked up a hefty volume I’d been meaning to read for quite a while, “Journal of a Soul,” the spiritual autobiography of Pope John XXIII—now Saint John XXIII. I wanted to know more about this man who had made such an impact on the church in so short a time. Elected Pope in 1958 at the age of 77, he lived only five more years, yet in that short time he called together an Ecumenical Council that rejuvenated the life of the church. What an example for our day—a golden-ager taking the lead to effect lasting changes in an ancient global institution!
Before tackling the text, I thumbed through the book perusing the many photos. Early on, the young Angelo Guiseppe Roncalli, who began the journal in 1895 as a teenage seminarian, appears lean, idealistic, determined. As his story continues and he assumes more responsibilities in the church, his figure fills, but it’s the widening breadth of his smile and deepening gaze of his eyes that most captured me. One photo stands out still—his first Christmas as Pope, which he chose to spend at the Roman prison. John XXIII seems almost to run into the embrace of a kneeling row of stripe-clad inmates. The prisoners gaze upward with hopeful smiles and hesitant applause as the most radiant smile and loving eyes meet them in a moment of seeming eternal mercy. The love in that wide smile; the acceptance in those beaming eyes: this is the father welcoming home the repentant son!
As Lent progresses, winter having yielded to spring, is it in our hearts to join with the younger son who approached his father with the words, “I have sinned against heaven and against you?” (Luke 15:18) Few of us, I imagine, have sunk to the depths of depravity in which this son wallowed; no less, though, have we separated ourselves from the embrace of God. Whether, as in the Gospel passage, we lie in muck with pigs, sharing the husks thrown them or, more likely, sit comfortably at home, harboring ill thoughts about others, we remain in isolation. Lent calls us to connection with God and with others, inviting us, pleading with us, to restore once lively communication, to repair once sturdy bridges, to live again in the tight embrace of God’s love.
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