YEAR C: HOMILY/REFLECTION FOR THE 4TH SUNDAY OF LENT
BY: Fr Mike Lagrimas
Message # 572: “The Sure Road”
- The Marian Message
a) The Blessed Mother warns us of the many roads being pointed to us by the world. These roads are being travelled by many since they are easier and more attractive: these are the roads of materialism, hedonism and search for pleasure and impurity (letter g). These are roads, which are unsafe, and they never lead “to an encounter with the God of salvation and the Father of Divine Mercy” (letter c).
b) She invites all her children to take the sure road, and this is her Immaculate Heart, the “refuge in which to take shelter and the sure road which leads you to God of salvation and peace” (letter b).
c) Taking this road means travelling along the way “of conversion and of a return to the Lord, through prayer and penance” (letter b).
d) Her Immaculate Heart is the sure road that leads to “all the truth contained in the Gospel of my Son Jesus” (letter d).
e) It is also the sure road “which leads you to renounce every form of sin and evil, to have a concrete experience of grace, of love and of purity” (letter f).
f) Furthermore, it is the sure road towards “full communion of love among you all” being brothers and sisters under our common bond as children of God and of the Blessed Mother (letter h).
g) Finally, her Immaculate Heart is the sure road towards the realization of the commandment of love: rejecting egoism and division, and living a life of full communion with each other in love (letter i). Taking this sure road will definitely help us accomplish the commandment of Jesus: “Love one another as I have loved you.”
- The Sunday Readings
a) All the three readings have a common theme: reconciliation. The Israelites travelled for forty years in the desert. And now, in the first reading (Joshua 5:9-12), at last, they arrived at the Promised Land, not anymore under the leadership of Moses (who died already), but of Joshua. They celebrated their first Passover in the Promised Land. Reconciliation is always a celebration of homecoming.
b) The Responsorial Psalm (Ps. 34) is a beautiful invitation to “Taste and see the goodness of God.” The world offers all kinds of promises for happiness and fulfillment. But these are all empty promises. Only God can give us true and lasting happiness. The Psalmist invites us to return to the Lord, and “Look to him that you may be radiant with joy.”
c) In the second reading, the second letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians (5:17-21) directly talks about reconciliation: “And all this is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and given us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting their trespasses against them and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.” Then he expresses his earnest appeal to us: “We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”
d) The Gospel is the Parable of the Prodigal Son. It is the story of Jesus about the son who decided to take the road that leads to pleasure and emptiness. When he realized his sad plight, he came back to his senses and decided to return to his father. This is a beautiful story of repentance, conversion, reconciliation and homecoming.
e) The title “Prodigal Son” is not really accurate because the whole story is not about the son; rather it is about the loving father, who, despite the son’s misbehavior, was eager to have him back in his arms and restore his rightful place in his household. The father’s behavior is that of unconditional love.
- Points for Reflection a) The Gospel this Sunday is part of the teachings of Jesus about God’s search for sinners. He gives three parables to illustrate this as his explanation of why he was keeping company with tax collectors and public sinners. The first parable is about the Lost Sheep; the second is about the Lost Coin; and the third is about the Lost Son. All these express one sublime truth: the initiative always comes from God. This is what St. Paul rightly pointed out in the second reading: “And all this is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ.”
This truth implies two important things: First, when we are in sin, and we want to return to the Lord, we have to pray and ask God for the gift of repentance and conversion. The same is true when we want someone to reform his life: we have to pray and ask God to grant him the grace of repentance. It is God’s grace. When we are in sin, we can never rise up by our own power because being in sin renders us totally powerless: we are spiritually dead. It is solely by God’s grace that we will come to our senses and humbly say, “I have sinned against God. I will rise up and return to the Father.”
And the second point is a reminder to all priests: a person who comes for confession is already touched by the grace of God. The mere fact that he realized his sinfulness and felt the need to go to confession is already a great grace. Hence, the priest should be generous with his time and graciously attend to the needs of the penitent. It is really sad when a penitent leaves the confessional with traumatic experiences due to the lack of kindness and charity of the priest. This fact further underscores the importance of prayer: we should pray for the penitents and pray also for the priest so that he becomes God’s effective instrument in imparting the grace of conversion.
b) Sin is basically egoism or selfishness. This is very clear in the attitude of the prodigal son. He did not think of anybody else. He just thought of himself. Taking his inheritance while his father was still alive is the greatest insult against his father. He did not think about that. What is important was that he got his share of the property, and so that he will not be obliged to share the produce of his inherited property to his father and brother, he decided to convert his inheritance into cash. But he did not use the money properly. He squandered everything on dissolute living. The prodigal son is the picture of each one of us when we become selfish. We do not think of anybody else. We do not even think about God. What we are only after is the satisfaction of our selfish desires. In the process, we hurt God, and we hurt other people. But in the end, we are actually hurting ourselves. Selfishness will never make us happy. Sin will never make us happy. It only destroys us, like rust slowly eating iron.
c) The younger son was the prodigal son – he wasted everything. But at least he came to his senses and returned to his father. He humbly admitted his mistakes, and was even willing to be treated just one of his father’s hired hands. He knew that what he has done made him undeserving of love from his father. There was true repentance and humility in him. On the other hand, the elder son was worse. True, he did not squander his father’s money, and he did not even leave the house. But there was no sincere love in him. He was in the house but he did not really feel he belonged to the house. That is why his father had to remind him: “My son, you are here with me always; everything I have is yours.” He was proud, arrogant and insensitive. When his brother left, he considered him dead and not anymore part of the family. While talking to his father, he referred to his younger brother as “your son”. He did not exert any effort to look for his brother. In fact, he resented the fact that his returning brother received a warm welcome. Many times we are like the elder son. We are also very selfish that we fail to see and count our blessings and instead we easily become jealous of the favors God grants to other people whom we think are undeserving. Our selfishness also leads us to be insensitive to the needs of others and unforgiving of their mistakes. That is why we find it difficult to experience true joy that comes from genuine loving.
d) Genuine love does not fade away, does not bear grudges, is humble and rejoices in the good fortune of the beloved. St. Paul describes this in his First Letter to the Corinthians, chapter 13. All these characteristics are shown in the example of the father. That is why this parable should not be called the Parable of the Prodigal Son, but the “Parable of the Running Father”. In a patriarchal society like that of the Jews, the head of the family does not stand up to greet somebody. And definitely, he will never run to meet anybody. To do this is unthinkable and dishonorable. But the father in the parable was totally different. He was the complete opposite of his prodigal son. While his son, in his selfishness, totally forgot about his father, on the other hand, the father, in his overwhelming love, totally forgot about himself. This is what true love is all about – one forgets about himself and just thinks of the welfare of the beloved. The virtue of humility is very dominant in the one who loves. Another virtue is the ability to forgive unconditionally, without any trace of bitterness and resentments. And finally, true love does not diminish and fade away despite the shortcomings and sins of the other. Our perfect example of this kind of love is the Heavenly Father. He is the Running Father being referred to by Jesus in the Gospel. And Jesus challenges us: “Be perfect as the heavenly Father is perfect.” Finally, he gave us the commandment: “Love one another as I have loved you.”
- Closing Song:
“Thank You, Lord”
GUIDE QUESTIONS FOR THE B.E.C.
Ang Cuaresma ay panahon ng kagalakan para sa atin sapagkat ang Panginoon ay nagpapatawad sa lahat ng ating mga kasalanan. Nararamdaman ba natin ang kagalakan na ito sa panahon ng Cuaresma?
Ang pakikipagkasundo ay nagdudulot ng ibayong kagalakan. Ano ang mga dahilan kung bakit nahihirapan tayong magpatawad at makipag-kasundo sa mga nagkasala sa atin? Ang iba’t ibang krisis sa ating mundo ay dulot ng isang mas mabigat na krisis: ang kakulangan ng pag-ibig na nag-uugat sa pamamayani ng kasakiman. Ito ang krisis ng kasalanan. Pag- usapan ang punto na ito.