Our fourth Sunday of Lent is called “Laetare” Sunday, from the word “rejoice,” and our readings tell us why: our God is always ready to forgive and take us back. In the first reading, the Israelites are
celebrating their entrance into the promised land and renewing their covenant with God. In the second reading, Paul tells us that the old things (sin) have passed away and we are a new creation in Christ. Our Gospel is the parable of the Prodigal Son, presenting to us a father who is always at the window, watching and waiting for his child to return to him.
The word “prodigal” means “wastefully extravagant” or “lavishly wasteful.” The word is applied to the younger son, who recklessly spends all of his inheritance and ends up with the most demeaning job a Jew could have: taking care of pigs, unclean animals. But it could also be applied to the other two family members in the family. It is clear that the father was extravagant in his love for both of his sons. Even though they shamed him, according to the customs of the day, he only showered love, understanding, and forgiveness on them. I have always thought a better title for this parable would be the “Prodigal Father.”
The older brother is “prodigal” by wasting his time and energy on jealousy and anger, being resentful that his father was so forgiving and accepting of his brother. If he doesn’t get past that, he will bring more destruction to peace in the family than the younger brother did by wasting the money.
How about us? Often our focus in Lent is on being the younger son, asking God for forgiveness for what we have done wrong. But are we being careful not to be like the older brother, holding grudges and refusing to forgive others? How much are we like the father, who showered love, understanding, compassion, and forgiveness on each of his sons, who had treated him badly. How are we growing as we journey through Lent?
Church sign of the week: Be the reason someone believes in the goodness of people.