4th Sunday of Lent
2 Corinthians 5:17-21
Luke 15:1-3, 11-32
(These may be used any day this week: Micah 7:7-9, John 9:1-41)
The Gospel this weekend is this:
Luke 15:1-3, 11-32
The tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to him,
2 but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying, "This man welcomes sinners and eats with them." 3 So to them he addressed this parable… 11 Then he said, "A man had two sons, 12 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. 13 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. 14 When he had freely spent everything, a severe famine struck that country, and he found himself in dire need. 15 So he hired himself out to one of the local citizens who sent him to his farm to tend the swine. 16 And he longed to eat his fill of the pods on which the swine fed, but nobody gave him any. 17 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. 18 I shall get up and go to my father and I shall say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.
19 I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as you would treat one of your hired workers."' 20 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. 21 His son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I no longer deserve to be called your
son.' 22 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. 23 Take the fattened calf and slaughter it. Then let us celebrate with a feast, 24 because this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again; he was lost, and has been found.' Then the celebration began. 25 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. 26 He called one of the servants and asked what this might mean. 27 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.' 28 He became angry, and when he refused to enter the house, his father came out and pleaded with him. 29 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. 30 But when your son returns who swallowed up your property with prostitutes, for him you slaughter the fattened calf.'
31 He said to him, 'My son, you are here with me always; everything I have is yours.
32 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.'"
The first reading is this:
Then the LORD said to Joshua, "Today I have removed the reproach of Egypt from you." Therefore the place is called Gilgal to the present day. 10 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. 11 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 12 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 theland of Canaan.
The second reading is this:
2 Corinthians 5:17-21
So whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come. 18 And all this is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and given us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 namely, God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting their trespasses against them and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 So we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be
reconciled to God. 21 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.
This Sunday is about the Good News of God's mercy ('laetare' Sunday). But do we truly appreciate it and love God back?
Jesus tells the parable of the prodigal son who returned to his father. The father didn't simply open the door to allow his son back in, he raced out to embrace him! I think that's a great way for God to inspire us to live Lent like a journey back home. I say back 'home' and not back to some cold religion of rules and regulations. Just before this parable, chapter 15 of Luke has the Pharisees criticizing Jesus saying "This man even welcomes sinners" (Lk 15:2). St Thomas More (1478-1535 - sentenced to death under king Henry VIII) used to say that if he had to write a summary of the whole Bible, he'd write this parable of the prodigal son. It's a great description of the love of our Father. I mean, of our Father who is mother, brother, sister and best friend! I like the way Rembrandt actually painted the father embracing the prodigal son, and his two hands are clearly different! One hand is male and the other is female! True love is multi-faceted, and all love is of God.
I like the origin of the famous song 'Tie a yellow ribbon round the old oak tree'. Once in the USA, a young man was in a fight in a bar and sentenced to some time in prison. It was very shameful for his parents, so on release, he wasn't sure if they would want him back home. He was too ashamed to ask them openly, so he wrote to them saying that he'd pass on the bus and if he saw a yellow ribbon tied on the tree in the garden, it would mean that they still wanted him. When he passed, he didn't just see a ribbon but the whole house painted yellow and half the town too. I don't know if it's a true story, but I like the way it describes parental love. It's an irrelevant detail, but my name 'Dara' actually means 'Oak tree', and when I told this once to a group in Spain, they gave me a present of a yellow neck-scarf! One thing that has come to be more and more clear to me, is that the love of our Father, as revealed by Jesus, is certainly no tale. He doesn't convince us by painting yellow, but by his own red blood under a crown of thorns on the Cross.
I like the fact that the father had new shoes put on his son's feet. God wants his children to travel out in order to help bring others home. The elder son in the parable fulfilled his few little domestic duties, but that's very different to really welcoming his brother home. It means that he wasn't longing with love like his father. That's sad. Do we long for our brothers and sisters to make it home to God?
The first reading today talks of the fact that the Jews appreciated their rescue from slavery in Egypt, and the meal of unleavened bread and parched grain etc. was in memory of the way they had to up and leave quickly without fussing about food. Our Eucharistic hosts are that way. Their exodus represents our Lenten rescue from selfishness and sin. The manna symbolises the fact that God provides when necessary. But it wasn't unending, and therefore the time came for them to farm the land of Canaan. It speaks of the fact that we all pass through some times when we just have to trust God, and other times when we have to set down to work ourselves.
It says that they didn't eat of what God provided (the manna), but of what grew in the land, but do we appreciate that the very fact that mankind can get any food to grow at all, is a gift of God!
The second reading praises the fact that Christ has reconciled us, and also it asks us to help reconcile others. Of course we're not Christ himself, but we all can be his 'ambassadors'.
We'll get up and get back to our Father and He pleads with us to put our shoes to good use in order to travel out and call others home - or at least to put my wheelchair and little computer to some decent use!
4° Domingo de Cuaresma Jos 5:9-12. 2°Cor 5:17-21. Lc 15:1-3, 11-32
Este Domingo trata de la Buena Nueva de la misericordia de Dios (Domingo ‘Laetare’). ¿Pero devolvemos amor a Dios?
Jesús nos cuenta la parábola del hijo prodigo que vuelve a su padre. El padre no simplemente abrió la puerta para dejarle volver, sino ¡corrió para abrazarle! Creo que es un modo muy bueno de Dios de inspirarnos a vivir la Cuaresma como un camino de vuelta al hogar. Digo ‘al hogar’ y no a una religión fría de regulaciones y deberes. Justo antes de la parábola, el capitulo 15 de Lucas tiene a los fariseos criticando a Jesús diciendo “Este hombre aún acoge a los pecadores” (Lc 15:2). Santo Tomás Moro (1478-1535 – condenado a muerte bajo el reinado del rey Enrique VIII) dijo que si tuviera que resumir la Biblia entera, elegiría esta parábola del hijo prodigo. Es una descripción muy buena del amor de nuestro Padre. ¡Quiero decir, de nuestro Padre que es madre, hermano, hermana y mejor amigo! Me gusta como Rembrandt pintó al padre abrazando al hijo pródigo y sus dos manos son claramente distintas – ¡una mano es masculina y la otra femenina! El amor verdadero tiene muchas facetas y todo amor es de Dios.
Me gusta el origen de la canción famosa ‘Tie a yellow ribbon round the old oak tree’ (‘Ata una bufanda amarilla por el viejo roble’). Una vez en los Estados Unidos, un joven estaba en una pelea en un bar y después condenado un tiempo en la cárcel. Era muy vergonzoso para sus padres, entonces al fin de la pena, no estaba seguro de que le fueran a recibir en el hogar. No quería preguntarles abiertamente, entonces les escribió una carta diciendo que pasaría en un bus y si viera una bufanda amarilla atada en el árbol del jardín, eso significaría que les gustaría su vuelta a casa. Al pasar en el bus, no vio simplemente una bufanda, sino toda la casa pintada de amarillo y la mitad del pueblo también. No se si es totalmente verdad, pero me gusta como describe el amor de un padre. Es un detalle sin importancia, pero mi nombre ‘Dara’ de hecho significa ‘Roble’, y ¡cuando lo dije una vez a un grupo en España, me dieron una bufanda amarilla de regalo! Una cosa más y más clara para mi, es que el amor de nuestro Padre, revelado por Jesús, no es un cuento. No nos convence por la pintura amarilla, sino por su propia sangre roja debajo de una corona de espinas en la Cruz.
Me gusta como el padre pidió que pusieran zapatos nuevos en los pies de su hijo. Dios quiere que sus hijos salgan en búsqueda de otros para ayudarles en su vuelta a casa. El hijo mayor en la parábola había cumplido sus cuatro deberes en casa, pero aquello está muy lejos de acoger amistosamente a su hermano. Significa que no le estaba anhelando con amor como su padre. Esto es triste. ¿Anhelamos nosotros la vuelta de nuestros hermanos y hermanas a Dios?
La primera lectura de hoy habla de como los Judíos apreciaban su rescate de la esclavitud en Egipto, y la cena de pan ácimo es en memoria del hecho de que tuvieron que ponerse en camino rápidamente sin mucha preparación de comida. Nuestras ostias de la eucaristía son así. Su éxodo simboliza nuestra liberación del egoísmo y del pecado. El maná simboliza el hecho de que Dios provee cuando hace falta. Pero no duró sin fin, y por eso llegó el tiempo cuando tuvieron que cultivar por su cuenta la tierra de Canaan. Habla de como tenemos todos que pasar por unas etapas simplemente confiando en Dios, y por otras poniéndonos a trabajar nosotros mismos. Dice que no estaban comiendo lo que Dios estaba regalando (el maná), sino lo que creció en la tierra, pero ¡el hecho de poder cultivar algo en la tierra, también es por si mismo un don de Dios!
La segunda lectura alaba el hecho de que Cristo nos ha reconciliado, y también nos pide ayudar en la reconciliación de otros. Claro, no somos Cristo mismo, pero podemos todos ser sus ‘embajadores’.
Nos pondremos en camino de vuelta a nuestro Padre y Él nos ruega a todos calzarnos para salir y llamar y ayudar a otros a regresar a casa – ¡o al menos a utilizar mi silla de ruedas y mi pequeño teclado para comunicar algo un poco útil!
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