Sunday, March 31, 2019

Fourth Sunday of Lent

Laetare Sunday

Readings of the Day
RB: Ch 48:22-25
Mass: Joshua 5:9a, 10-12; Resp Ps 34; 2 Cor 5:17-21; Lk 15:1-3, 11-32 or readings for Year A: 1 Sam 16:1b, 6-7, 10-13a; Resp Ps 23; Eph 5:8-14; Jn 9:1-41

Rejoice, Jerusalem, and all who love her.

I have written before about the 'Prodigal Son Syndrome'. This is when we start to read or hear the parable of the two sons and their father in today's Gospel and tune out. We've heard this story before. We know it. There is nothing new in it for us. Still, as Pope Benedict XVI said in a 2010 Angelus Address, 'It never fails to move us and every time we hear or read it, it can suggest to us ever new meanings.' Yes, it can if we are open to the Word and further conversion this Lenten season on Laetare Sunday. Why not take Pope Benedict's words to heart while reading the Gospel slowly and prayerfully: 'Let us meditate on this parable. Let us compare ourselves to the two sons and, especially, contemplate the Heart of the Father. Let us throw ourselves into his arms and be regenerated by His merciful love.'

For further reflection, I include last night's reading from Vigils, found in John R. Donahue's, The Gospel in Parable.

Jesus’ fellowship with tax collectors and sinners is itself parabolic of his proclamation that the reign of God is near.  The reign of God which is enacted in the ministry of Jesus is the offer of God’s mercy and love which shatters the categories of servility by which people seek God’s favor.  It also destroys those destructive categories which people erect between each other and between themselves and God.  Both sons are jolted out of their self-understanding and invited to a celebration of life out of death.  The understanding of God as “king” and “father,” with its accompanying images of power and dominance, is challenged and transformed…The parable speaks of that change of heart (metanoia) which is necessary to respond to the presence of God.  More important, it creates an imaginative world which makes metanoia possible.  It summons to a deep faith that one is loved as son or daughter and created as such, not according to conditions of acceptance which are dictated in advance, but because of the shocking, surprising, and outgoing love of God.

At the same time, let us pray 'for those preparing to enter the Church this Easter who will receive the Second Scrutiny today: that God will free them [and us] from the false values that can blind us' (Magnificat, Prayer of the Faithful, March 31, 2019).

I have brushed away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like a mist; return to me, for I have redeemed you.
(Is 44:22)

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