Fourth Sunday of Lent
Everybody knows the story of the Prodigal Son. We have all read it and thought of the times when we were the prodigal son and the times when we behaved like the other son. We relate to the two sons because we are all sinners, and have made countless mistakes throughout our lives. But the story is not really about the two sons. That is where we always make the mistake. The story is about the father, because the story is really about our heavenly Father.
Our Loving God loves us in a way that is difficult for us to understand. The closest comparison we can come up with as human beings is the love between a parent and a child. A parent loves her child unconditionally. She roots for her to succeed, and she looks past her mistakes and faults. We get this with the father in the story–he welcomes his wayward son home and is overjoyed that he has decided to put his life back together.
Now take it one step further than this. Not only is God a loving parent, but God knows us and sees past what divides us. That is, God sees past our labels, our race, our gender, our education, our age, and our nationality. God knows who we are at our core. God’s love does not depend on whether or not we stay in a particular political party, or whether or not we stay a certain weight. God does not expect us to hold a job and pay our bills for his love. When our opinions change, God is not disappointed in us. God knows us, and made us beautiful. The beauty is what God sees, and that is what we should see in others.
To love as God loves, that is, to love like the father in the parable, we must look at the soul of the person. We must remember the inherent dignity of the person, no matter how much they have hurt us or others. The other son in the story roots for his brother to fail, because he hangs on to an idea of what is “fair.” But God’s love is not fair at any point in time. If God’s love were fair, then none of us would have it. God’s love is simply pure compassion and appreciation for his creation, and that is how we must learn to love–without judgment, without fear, and with pure appreciation.
Father, I come to You in Jesus’ name. I believe that I have been created for love, to experience your healing love and to share that love in my relationships with others. It’s not enough to exist in my life if I don’t have a relationship built upon expressed love with You or with my family. I renounce the lie that I am not a lover, that I cannot open up my emotions or allow myself to be hurt again. Instead, I ask You to wrap Your arms around me, to comfort me in those areas of hurt and pain and to fill me up so that I can in turn share Your love with those around me. I make a commitment to ask myself hourly, “Father, how can I receive Your love and then give it away to the next person I meet?” I want to live my life as an expression of Your love. I choose to submit to Your love.
(taken from https://orphanheart.wordpress.com/2012/05/29/experiencing-father-gods-love/)
Reading 1 JOS 5:9A, 10-12
The LORD said to Joshua,
“Today I have removed the reproach of Egypt from you.”
While the Israelites were encamped at Gilgal on the plains of Jericho,
they celebrated the Passover
on the evening of the fourteenth of the month.
On the day after the Passover,
they ate of the produce of the land
in the form of unleavened cakes and parched grain.
On that same day after the Passover,
on which they ate of the produce of the land, the manna ceased.
No longer was there manna for the Israelites,
who that year ate of the yield of the land of Canaan.
Responsorial Psalm PS 34:2-3, 4-5, 6-7
R. (9a) Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.
I will bless the LORD at all times;
his praise shall be ever in my mouth.
Let my soul glory in the LORD;
the lowly will hear me and be glad.
R. Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.
Glorify the LORD with me,
let us together extol his name.
I sought the LORD, and he answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.
R. Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.
Look to him that you may be radiant with joy,
and your faces may not blush with shame.
When the poor one called out, the LORD heard,
and from all his distress he saved him.
R. Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.
Reading 2 2 COR 5:17-21
Brothers and sisters:
Whoever is in Christ is a new creation:
the old things have passed away;
behold, new things have come.
And all this is from God,
who has reconciled us to himself through Christ
and given us the ministry of reconciliation,
namely, God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ,
not counting their trespasses against them
and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.
So we are ambassadors for Christ,
as if God were appealing through us.
We implore you on behalf of Christ,
be reconciled to God.
For our sake he made him to be sin who did not know sin,
so that we might become the righteousness of God in him.
Verse Before The Gospel LK 15:18
I will get up and go to my Father and shall say to him:
Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.
Gospel LK 15:1-3, 11-32
Tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to Jesus,
but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying,
“This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
So to them Jesus addressed this parable:
“A man had two sons, and the younger son said to his father,
‘Father give me the share of your estate that should come to me.’
So the father divided the property between them.
After a few days, the younger son collected all his belongings
and set off to a distant country
where he squandered his inheritance on a life of dissipation.
When he had freely spent everything,
a severe famine struck that country,
and he found himself in dire need.
So he hired himself out to one of the local citizens
who sent him to his farm to tend the swine.
And he longed to eat his fill of the pods on which the swine fed,
but nobody gave him any.
Coming to his senses he thought,
‘How many of my father’s hired workers
have more than enough food to eat,
but here am I, dying from hunger.
I shall get up and go to my father and I shall say to him,
“Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.
I no longer deserve to be called your son;
treat me as you would treat one of your hired workers.”’
So he got up and went back to his father.
While he was still a long way off,
his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion.
He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him.
His son said to him,
‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you;
I no longer deserve to be called your son.’
But his father ordered his servants,
‘Quickly bring the finest robe and put it on him;
put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.
Take the fattened calf and slaughter it.
Then let us celebrate with a feast,
because this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again;
he was lost, and has been found.’
Then the celebration began.
Now the older son had been out in the field
and, on his way back, as he neared the house,
he heard the sound of music and dancing.
He called one of the servants and asked what this might mean.
The servant said to him,
‘Your brother has returned
and your father has slaughtered the fattened calf
because he has him back safe and sound.’
He became angry,
and when he refused to enter the house,
his father came out and pleaded with him.
He said to his father in reply,
‘Look, all these years I served you
and not once did I disobey your orders;
yet you never gave me even a young goat to feast on with my friends.
But when your son returns
who swallowed up your property with prostitutes,
for him you slaughter the fattened calf.’
He said to him,
‘My son, you are here with me always;
everything I have is yours.
But now we must celebrate and rejoice,
because your brother was dead and has come to life again;
he was lost and has been found.’”
(taken from USCCB.org)
God’s love for us is stronger than we could ever imagine. Do you believe that God loves you? Watch this clip to get a better idea of what God’s love looks like.
Here is a wonderful guided meditation on the story of the Prodigal Son.
Heavenly Father, I invite You to make Yourself at home in my heart. Send my roots deep into the soil of Your marvelous love. Grant me the power to understand its scope—its width, length, height, and depth. Allow me the privilege of experiencing and recognizing that love every day. And Lord, as You teach me more about Your love for me, please fulfill the promise that accompanies a deeper understanding of this gift—fill me with the fullness of life and power that comes from You alone. In Jesus name, amen.