Fourth Sunday of Lent (C)
Today’s Gospel portrays for us the following:
1. The younger brother. He was careless and was negligent of his responsibilities as a son, a brother and a neighbor. He got absorbed with himself and found friends through his influence by the use of his fleeting wealth, but he lost his family, and lost God as well. However, despite his foolishness, at the end of his careless life, he did not lose that confidence in calling his father, “father.”
2. The older brother. He missed many things. He missed the fact that he was at home with his father, and everything was his. He also missed the fact that his younger brother was still his brother. He was angry and lost his temper. He lost his confidence as well in addressing his father, “father,” by saying “this son of yours.” He was afraid he still had to share some of what was left for him.
3. The loving father. He was confident. He could give away whatever he had: he gave to his younger son what he asked for, and all that remained was for his older son. With his older son, he did not turn up the heat of anger or answered with sarcasm. He talked in his loving tone of voice and was rational. Unlike his older son, the father did not lose control of his emotions, and certainly did not lose his credibility as a father. In fact, he was happy to celebrate the return of his younger son.
Despite the situation of his two sons, he did not disown them, for he was their loving father and knew that they could not find any other father who would take them into his heart.
The readings and our liturgy teach us the following:
1. Carelessness and negligence of responsibilities drive away opportunities and alienate us from our family, our community and the Church. Only fidelity to our family, our community and our Church will teach us to have confidence in Him who is God and owns all things.
2. God is our loving and compassionate Father. He is our Father and we are all brothers. He takes us back from our sinfulness and rejoices at our return, especially in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. He also gives us the graces and blessings in order to live in His Kingdom. Thus, we cannot be selfish, or be negligent of our responsibilities toward one another.
He also teaches us that we don’t even have the right to complain or be angry about anything or with anybody, for we have already received the Holy Spirit to teach us the ways of the Kingdom. Complaining or losing one’s temper is actually a desperate desire or act to control a person, group of persons or a situation, and losing control of self. St. James tells us: “Brothers…. be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath, for the wrath of a man does not accomplish the righteousness of God. Therefore, put away all filth and evil excess and humbly welcome the word that has been planted in you and is able to save your souls” (1:19-21). Thus, when annoyed or upset we cannot simply raise our voice and start yelling, for it will only reveal that we are losing our head and our credibility.
3. When fearful that we would lose something, don’t just trust in yourself. Trust in the Lord. St Hilary, in one of his treatises on the Psalms writes: “Fear in (the) ordinary sense is the trepidation our weak humanity feels when it is afraid of suffering something it does not want to happen…. But of the fear of the Lord this is what is written: Come, my children, listen to me, I shall teach you the fear of the Lord. The fear of the Lord has then to be learned because it can be taught. It does not lie in terror, but in something that can be taught. It does not arise from the fearfulness of our nature; it has to be acquired by obedience to the commandments, by holiness of life and by knowledge of the truth” (Thursday in the 2nd week of Lent, Liturgy of the Hours, Vol II.).
When the Israelites reached the Promised Land, “they ate of the produce of the land (and)…. the manna ceased. Today we celebrate the Eucharist as God’s gift to us, for we no longer partake of our own merits, but of the suffering, death and resurrection of Christ for the salvation of the world.
Let us return to the Father through Jesus and Mary, and make use of the Sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist to receive the mercy and peace God is ready to give us. Let us spend a little more time in prayer and reflection, for in prayer we learn serenity and humility. Let us be faithful to our legitimate relationships, for in honest relationship we learn to love as the Holy Trinity. Let us be open to works of charity and of hope, for in this apostolate we learn that we are not the center of the world, but Jesus and our neighbor. Let us recognize that love is eternal as God is; and relationship because of the love of God leads us to His kingdom. God expects our return, so we can celebrate everything that he prepared for us.