Homily  4th Sunday of Lent Year C: Reflections by Fr. Michael U. UdoekpoJos 5: 9a, 10-12; Ps 34:2-7; 2 Cor 5:17-21 and Luke 15:1-3, 11-32
Merciful, Loving and Forgiving God!
The Bible readings of today, particularly the Gospel parable of the prodigal son reminds us, in this Year of Mercy, among other things, who our God is: merciful, reconciling, kind, forgiving and compassionate. God lavishes us with his love!
The more reason today’s Gospel, Luke 15 is a delight of many pastors and preachers and very popular. It is, easy to communicate to children, young and adult, and seniors, especially during Lent. 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.
For example the parable of the lost sheep (Luke 15:1-7); and the parable of the lost coin (vv 8-10). It is also worth noting that it was the particular critique of Jesus by the Pharisees, namely that Christ welcomed sinners and tax collectors (vv 1-2) that prompted the Gospel parable of the prodigal son.
Like such 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 ourselves. 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 an heir to the father we are all God’s children constantly asking, enjoying or searching for our inheritance and asking for forgiveness. We are constantly on the way like the Israelite, with Moses in the book of Exodus, and Joshua, in today's first reading, searching for that Promised Land (Josh 5:9a, 10-12). These journeys, like our Lenten journey could be rough and tumbling, but the merciful God is constantly watching over us. As we journey through lent we must not forget the goodness of God, his love and blessings in our prayers, in our Passovers, liturgies and worships!
During this lent we want to stop and thinkof the abundance of inheritance God has blessed us with from creation. 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 echoed in today’s antiphon “rejoice, Jerusalem, and all who love her. Be joyful, all who were in mourning.” In other words, never mind what people might say or complain of as did the first son, we are invited during lent to come back to the newness of life in Christ.
For Paul, as stress in that 2nd reading, 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 as a merciful!
Therefore, in this year of mercy, we may asked ourselves: Who in the past have offended us? Whom do you want to forgive in your family, work place, school of neighborhood: a betrayed friend, spouse, or a prodigal child?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. He is a forgiving, gracious and merciful God!