Fourth Sunday of Lent (B)
We have learned that to have healthy self-confidence and emotional maturity, we must have a healthy self-esteem. Many try to build up their confidence by simply reacting to situations and events in their lives. They wear expensive clothing and jewelry, buy flashy cars, go into politics, take unusual courses, seek to win awards, work to earn big money, work hard to get the promotion everybody aspires for, and many others. With these they want to prove that they are valuable. They keep seeking the things of this world that prove undependable anyway, and in the end, they realize that someone achieves more, and someone is actually better than they are, so they feel more inferior and seek to possess more. They miss the person who can really be their peace and self-esteem, Jesus Christ, and miss the opportunity to grow in their potential of being worthy children of God.
The parable of the lost sheep (Lk 15:1-7) tells us about the wandering, directionless, careless sheep. While lost and maybe hurt, he is able to make a lot of noise, so that the shepherd could hear him. When found, the shepherd carries him on his shoulders, takes him back to the fold, binds up his wounds and cares for him.
The parable of the prodigal son (actually, the parable of the merciful father) (Lk 15:11-32) tells us of the reckless, careless and irresponsible youth, who is able to recognize his foolishness and consciously returns to his father and asks for forgiveness. The father brings him back to the joy and peace of the family.
The parable of the lost coin (Lk 15:8-9) tells us of the coin that doesn’t even know that he is lost. It just remains where it is, in the dark, dusty area, probably under the couch or bed, or under the house, where nobody would see it, unless there has to be a good amount of cleaning and searching. When found the owner rejoices and calls her neighbors to rejoice with her for having found the lost coin.
The sheep may be the sinner who is lost and is able to cry for help. The prodigal son is the sinner who receives the gift of recognizing his fault and desires to return to God. The lost coin may be the sinner who does not know his situation and condition or the sinner who doesn’t even care where he is and what he does. Whichever situation, God sends instruments to lead the sinner back to Him: to be gently carried and brought back to the Church, to be lovingly forgiven and brought back to the family of believers, or to be picked up joyfully and celebrated for having been found. Remember then that each one becomes an instrument of salvation.
God loves us and does not want to lose us, except those who choose to be lost. In his letter to the Ephesians, St. Paul tells us:
by grace you have been saved through faith…. it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so no one may boast. For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them (Eph 2:8-10).
In fact, He paid the price for our redemption by having Jesus die on the cross for us “that the world might be saved through him” (Jn 3:17).
Lent is a season when the Church earnestly invites us to look deeply into our hearts and ask the questions: Do we work so hard to seek self-esteem from the things of the world that close doors to God? Do we realize that we are sinners who need to be lead or carried or picked up through the power of the sacraments, especially the sacrament of Reconciliation and the Eucharist? Are we so self-centered that we need other instruments of the Church to show us that to be Christians, and Catholic at that, we have to anticipate and be open to the needs of others? Lent teaches us to be more open to God and to our neighbor through prayer, fasting and almsgiving.
May our Lord Jesus, through the intercession of Mary, our Mother, show us how to pray with Him, how to offer to others what they need and how to be loving and caring for the needy and the suffering. And let our good works shine brightly so that others may see the goodness that the Lord is doing for His people. The Lord Jesus showed His love and mercy for us His people on the cross and still gives us Himself in the Eucharist that we celebrate as His gift to us and food for eternal life.