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4th Sunday of Lent, Year C – Homily

4th Sunday of Lent, Year C
Joshua 5:9a, 10-12
Psalm 34:2-3, 4-5, 6-7 (9a)
2 Corinthians 5:17-21
Luke 15:1-3, 11-32
March 31, 2019

Sometimes I hear parents lamenting that they feel like all they are to their children is a chauffeur and/or a source of money.  “Mom, I need to drive me over to Susie’s house.”  “Dad, I need money so I can go to the movies with my friends.  Oh, and I need you to drive me there.”

In today’s gospel we see this taken to an extreme.  The younger son asks his father for his inheritance now.  No good motive is given for this.  He wants the money so he can leave and do what he wants.

This was allowed at the time but you need to understand the full significance of what the younger son is saying.  The culture of the time allowed him to ask for his inheritance before his father died but to do so would be akin to divorcing his father.  In asking for the money, he is saying he is going to take the money and leave, never to see his family again.  He would be considered dead to his family.

See what I mean when I said this takes a child seeing their parent as a chauffeur or money source to extreme?  He doesn’t want his dad in his life.  He just wants his money.

Remarkably, his father gives him the money and he “set off to a distant country…squandering his inheritance…freely spent everything.”  He made no plans for the future.  If he had planned well, he might have been able to live a long time on his inheritance but because he squandered it, when a severe famine struck, “he found himself in dire need.

He hit bottom.

Only when he hit bottom did he come to his senses.  He recognized how good life was in his father’s house.  However, because of the way he left, he had no reason to expect his dad to take him back.  He just hopes to become a hired hand there.  He heads back to confess his sins and beg for a job.

His family could choose to forgive him or to be reject him, holding his sins against him.

Which would you choose?

His father chooses to forgive.  In fact, he is so happy when he sees his younger son returning that he runs out to meet him.  No one would expect him to do it but the father is merciful.  Maybe others would make him a hired hand but the father does more.  He tells his servants to put the finest robe on him and a ring.  This symbolizes the father giving back his full status as his son.  He is so happy that he “celebrates with a feast.

No one would have expected such a merciful response by the father. 

Let us not forget the older brother.  He has always done as his father asked and never asked for much.  He might seem like the epitome of a good son.

Yet, his reaction to his brother’s return is very different than his father’s.  Clearly, he does not want to forgive his brother.  He is even angry with his father for throwing a feast to celebrate his younger brother’s return. 

He refuses to forgive.  He refuses to show mercy.  He refuses to let his brother begin anew.

There are three characters in this story.  Which one are you like?

  • Are you the younger son who sinned and needs mercy?
  • Are you the father who offers mercy and complete reconciliation?
  • Are you the older son who refuses to forgive and rejoice?

When we are the younger son who sins, is it possible to start over with God?  Of course it is.  God is like the father in the son.  God’s forgiveness and mercy is absolute. 

With God is always possible to become a “new creation.”  When we confess our sins, God removes them (“the old things have passed away) to reconcile us to himself through Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross.

God constantly makes things new for his people.  He leads his people into new life as they enter the promised land with Joshua.  He leads us to new life with Jesus.

Sometimes people think God won’t forgive them.  Why?  Because they are like the older son won’t forgive.  If we think forgiveness is not possible between brothers, it’s not a big step to think God won’t forgive us.

Sometimes, we think we have to fix what we have done before we can be forgiven but we can’t change the past.  Know that God stands ready to forgive.

Paul speaks of a “ministry of reconciliation.”  We all have a part to play in this ministry.  We need to forgive others so we can reconcile with them.  We need to tell them that God is willing to forgive us through Jesus’ death on the Cross.

There is only one thing that stops God from forgiving us.  Us.  We have to let God forgive us.  That means we have to forgive ourselves.

So, again, who are you like in the story?  The younger son who sins, the older son who refuses to forgive, or the father who is just waiting to forgive?

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