Fourth Sunday of Lent Year C Laetare Sunday
Rose Sunday or Laetare Sunday will be very different this year in Rome. Since Benedict XVI is no longer Pope, there will be no one to send a Golden Rose to Catholic kings and presidents. There is not quite the same reason to rejoice as in recent years, for now we await the election of a new Holy Father to shepherd the Church. The Conclave to elect a new pope will begin on Tuesday 12th March and we pray for the election as we will pray for the man elected. On this fourth Sunday of Lent the focus of our readings for the liturgy is on coming back home and this is also about the Lenten season. The gospel reading is the story of the prodigal son which is about coming back to the Father. The story tells us about son who asked and got his inheritance and then where he squandered his money on a life of debauchery. Then after a period in the wilderness of having little or nothing and recognising the error of his ways the son decides to return to his Father. The father welcomes back the return of his younger son with great extravagance. The contrasting attitude of the elder son is the main message of the parable, which is told for those who contest Jesus’ welcoming attitude to sinners (15:1-3). Perhaps the elder son has a reasonable grievance. Did the father never show gratitude to him for his commitment, his ‘slaving’? The words of the father to this elder son are truly healing words: ‘My son, you are with me always and all I have is yours.’ The elder brother is of course a type for ourselves. He had absolutely no sympathy for his brother. Had he had the opportunity, he would have tarred and feathered his younger brother. He would then have run him off the property on a rail. But his sibling’s misadventures cost him nothing. As the elder brother, two thirds of his father’s estate was legally his. His money was safe and protected.His brother had wasted the third of the estate that was rightfully his own by law. Notice too the older brother had an ugly mindset. It was he who suggested that his brother had spent his inheritance on fast women and slow horses.
The Master then is telling us that God will forgive even the worst rogue among us unconditionally. All we have to do is start walking back to God. Like the prodigal son, our motives may not be the purest. Nor do we have to even finish the journey. God is quite willing to meet us before our trip is finished as the saying goes he will come to meet us half way along the road. He will bring us to honours which we humanly speaking do not deserve. Obviously God merits the label “this tremendous lover.No sacred book other than the Bible proclaims the love of God or a god for his people and then Jesus the only Son of the Father came. His whole life was a statement of Love, love for the Father, love for us. His death was a proclamation of this love. “Is this enough for you?” he asks the mystic Julian of Norwich. He was saying, “If you need more, I will do more.” Of course, it is enough. We live under the mercy of God, under the compassion of God. We live in the Love of Jesus Christ.
The parable of the Prodigal Son, Forgiving Father or Elder Brother, is calling us to reflect on the depth of our own commitment to the Lord, and our own determination to live His Love. Nothing is too much to offer. Such is God’s delight at the return of a sinner.