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.
Our first reading for the third Sunday of Lent presents the call from God to Moses to lead His people out of slavery in Egypt to the
Promised Land. St. Paul, in our selection from his first letter to the Corinthians, notes that the ancients were “baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.” They all “ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink.” Yet they turned away from God and were struck down.
Paul then explicitly says this happened as an example for us, who have been baptized and receive the Body and Blood of Christ. Our reading ends with this clear admonition: “whoever thinks he is standing secure should take care not to fall.”
The point is that the sacraments do not make us “secure,” if we are not allowing the graces received to help us grow in our love of God and neighbor. We need to be using the sacraments and the support of the community to help us continue the process of transforming our attitudes and actions to mirror the attitudes and actions of Jesus.
In our Gospel, Jesus uses the parable of the land owner, who gives the fig tree one more year to produce fruit before it will be cut down, to remind us that God is giving us time to repent and grow in love, but we don’t have forever. We are a good way into Lent already. I invite us to reflect on how we are using this special time “in the
desert,” as well as the Lenten resources and services offered by our faith community, to help us grow in our ability to reflect Christ’s love to the world. And let us support each other in prayer.
Church sign of the week: Let all you do be done in love.
The Gospel for the first Sunday of Lent presents the temptations of Christ, which tells us that Jesus was human and experienced temptations, as we do. The Gospel for the second Sunday, which we hear this weekend, is the Transformation, which emphasizes that Jesus is also divine.
In the Transfiguration, the Father speaks from the cloud for the second time; the first time was at the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan by John the Baptist. There is a big difference between the two, even though Jesus is identified as the Son in both of them.
At the baptism, the Father says, You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased. The Father is speaking directly TO Jesus, acknowledging Him as His Son, and encouraging Him as Jesus is about to start His active ministry. I think it is fair to interpret this as a commission from the Father that Jesus should go forth and minister.
At the Transfiguration, the Father says, This is my chosen Son; listen to him. The Father is speaking to Peter, James, and John, assuring them that Jesus is his Son and that they (and we) should listen to Him.
LISTEN TO HIM: it is not enough for us to acknowledge Jesus as our Lord and Master; we also have to listen to Him. How? Jesus calls us to do good to those who hate us and to pray for those who mistreat us. He calls us to be merciful, forgiving, and generous, without expecting anything back. He tells us not to judge and not to condemn. These challenges, which deal with how we interact with others, are at the heart of being a Christian, of being a follower of Jesus who LISTENS TO HIM.
It is obvious by the words and actions of many who call themselves “Christians” in our country that they are not listening to Him. The divisions, the hateful words and actions, the physical attacks against airline employees, etc., etc., all indicate that we are not listening.
How am I doing personally? At home? In my family? At work? In the neighborhood? Am I listening? Am I loving, generous, forgiving? Do I avoid judging, condemning, and malicious speech? Do I bring peace and harmony by my words and actions?
I invite us to reflect on our lives this week: am I listening to Jesus and His challenges? How can I do better? God bless.
Church sign of the week: It is good to be a Christian and know it, but it is better to be a Christian and show it.
It is so easy to fall into a routine: to get up, eat, go to work, cook dinner, etc. without thinking much about what we are doing. Part of that routine could be losing my temper, stealing things from work, and other things we wouldn’t be proud of. Life can become very shallow.
Lent is a time to be intentional about growing as a person and deepening our relationship with the Lord. To do this, we need to break our routines and be more intentional about what we are doing. One analogy I read said that Lent should be like putting a little pebble in my shoe, a pebble that makes me aware of what I am doing as I walk through life.
As I examine my daily routine, I might ask myself questions like these:
If you have not yet made plans to grow spiritually during Lent, I invite you to do so NOW. And, as we struggle to grow, let us support each other in prayer.
Church sign of the week: If you are headed in the wrong direction, God allows U-turns.