Homily 4th Sunday of Lent Year C: Reflections by Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
Jos 5: 9a, 10-12; Ps 34:2-7; 2 Cor 5:17-21 and Luke 15:1-3, 11-32
Our Newness in Christ, Come Easter!
The Entrance antiphon of today’s Liturgy sets the tone for what we are celebrating today, called in Latin, Laetere Sunday, and a joyful or joyous Sunday. The text of the antiphon is from the Prophet Isaiah 66:10-11 says ‘Rejoice, Jerusalem, be glad for her…”.
Prophet Zephaniah 3:14-20, emphasizes similar joy, saying, “Rejoice the Lord has cancelled your judgment and misfortunes. The Lord your God is with you. He is a Mighty Savior. He rejoices over you with gladness. He will rejoice over you with a happy Song. He will renew you with His Love and Restores your Fortunes” (Zeph 3:14-20).
We celebrate today the joy of God’s love and liberation in Christ; freedom and forgiveness, like the merciful and forgiving father in the parable of the prodigal son in today’s Gospel. Luke 15 which teaches us about God’s love and mercy.
It is a delight of many pastors and preachers and very popular. It is, easy to communicate to children, young and adult, and senior. It is widely use in reconciliation services and during EWTN homilies. Each of us can relate to this Gospel parable, and to similar parables in the Holy Scriptures.
Antecedence to this parable are not only parables of the lost sheep (Luke 15:1-7) and the lost coin (vv 8-10) but the particular critique of Jesus by the Pharisees, namely that Christ welcomed sinners and tax collectors (vv 1-2). This critique prompted also the parable of the prodigal son.
Like the Pharisees most of the time we focus our energy on criticizing our leaders in the society and in the church or every other person around us except our selves. Some of these criticisms might be justified and sometimes they are not, like those of the Pharisees who did not like Christ so much. Our personal weaknesses or prodigality are usually the last ones we notice except with the grace of God. Like the prodigal son who was a heir to the father we are all God’s children constantly asking, enjoying or searching for our inheritance. We are constantly on the way like the Israelite, with Moses and Joshua searching for that Promised Land (Josh 5:9a, 10-12).
Think of the abundance of inheritance God has blessed us with. We inherited our image from God, the gifts of all parts of our body; the gifts of our senses and intelligence, the gifts of roof over our heads, our jobs, positions of wealth and power, our families, healthy children, successful marriages, and good friends and neighbors. The fullness of these blessings of course is the attainment of the Kingdom of God, the ultimate inheritance.
Like the prodigal son sometimes we are tempted to walk away from our blessings and inheritance or use them wrongly. But there is always a joy when we realize that we are on the wrong track and long to return to God, like the prodigal son finally did. This U- turn is the source of our joy, and that of Christ. Never mind what people might say or complain of as did the first son, come back to the newness of life in Christ.
For Paul, each of us depending on how this Gospel speaks to us can be recreated; re converted, reconciled and be renewed in Christ the Son of the Loving God and of the Forgiving Father. We can become a new creation (2 Cor 5:17-21) and enter into a renewed relationship with God, who like the father of the prodigal son, is joyfully waiting to receive us.
When we forgive, recognize our prodigality; be less jealous of one another, put our various inheritance to good use, God our Father is ready for us with a new ring, a new rob and with a sumptuous Passover feast ( Jos 5:9-12) of eternal life in Christ – at Easter.