4th Sunday of Lent 2019

Apr 2, 2019

FOURTH SUNDAY OF LENT - Deacon Brian Lewis

Today, we just heard a very familiar parable; Jesus tells us the story of the prodigal son.   What is the story about for you?   Who do you identify with in it?    Most people would say it is about a frivolous young man who decides to take what he can get and have a grand time with it and then has second thoughts when the money runs out.   So, he winds up in the worst possible circumstance, and remembering his former life, repents of his actions and goes home, seeking forgiveness.   And is forgiven.   Some people identify with the older brother, having to watch him go off and then do the work by himself, only to watch as the younger brother comes back with no consequences for his foolish mistake.   And some people think that it is about a father who loved both of his sons with all his heart.

We can all relate to this story because it is the story of a family.   It happens in families that children are very different from their siblings.   The boys are often referred to and the 'good' son and the 'bad' son, but they are just people with hopes, with dreams, with feelings and with flaws.

Growing up, they probably competed for the attention of their father their whole lives to this point.   The older by the great work he did, the younger perhaps by wit and charm because he couldn't match his bigger, stronger brother physically.   It could be that the older son had a role in his brother’s decision to leave and seek his fortune elsewhere.

In a way, the older brother is as lost as the younger, because though he never left the farm, he was never close to his father.    He felt the need to earn his father's love; the love he felt that his brother got without working for it.   But just as he did each day for the younger son in his absence, the father goes out searching for the dutiful son.

It is easy to focus on the character of the two sons in today's parable.   We can relate with the younger son, mired in sin, who realizes his need for repentance or with the older son who is so focused on comparing his behavior with his brothers that he is unable to appreciate the love that his father continues to gift him with.

The father is steadfast in his love for both of his sons, forgiving them despite their behavior.   He longs for closeness with his beloved children.   In fact, it is the remembrance of his father's love and care for his servants that leads the younger son to repentance.   And hopefully, it will be the father's gentle invitation to join the celebration that leads the older son to be reconciled with father and brother alike.

Pope Francis wrote in his apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, 'God never tires of forgiving us, we are the ones who tire of seeking his mercy.'   We are human and sinful.   And it is disheartening when we fall into sin (sometimes the same one) again and again.   But God is the father in Jesus' story today.   St Isaac the Syrian gives us words of hope: “As a handful of sand is thrown into the ocean, so are the sins of all flesh as compared with the mind of God.   Just as a strongly flowing fountain is not blocked by a handful of earth, so the compassion of the Creator is not overcome by the sins of His creatures.”

God continues to watch and wait for us to realize the depth and breadth of love that God has for us and return to Him as the younger son did in our story.   Let us pray for perseverance in the way of repentance this Lent, so that we too grow closer to God this Holy season.