4th Sunday of Lent
March 18, 2007
Reflections on the Readings by Dennis Hankins
Joshua 5:9-12; Psalm 34:2-7
2 Corinthians 5:17-21
Luke 15:1-3, 11-32
Theme: The Ministry of Reconciliation
God is not mad at you!
St. Paul eloquently elaborates on God's ministry of reconciliation. Whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold new things have come. And all of this is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting their trespasses against them and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.
Israel's 40-year journey to the Promised Land was concluding. To enter into the fullness of their inheritance, they celebrated the Passover. Passover prefigures for us God's work of reconciling us to himself. On the day of the Passover in Egypt, God hovered over his people to keep them safe as death embraced the firstborn of man and beast in all of Egypt. Israel trekked through the Red Sea and under the cloud through which they were baptized into Moses. Through Baptism we are baptized into Christ. And all ate the same supernatural food and all drank the same supernatural drink. For they drank from the supernatural Rock which followed them, and the Rock was Christ.
In Lent we examine ourselves through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We might call this our annual spiritual spring-cleaning. This spiritual renewal draws us closer to Christ. It reminds us to be faithful ambassadors of Christ as if God were appealing to the world through us to be reconciled to him. It refocuses our thinking on how God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
The older brother in today's Gospel is not unlike the first generation that perished in the wilderness. Unbelieving of God's promise of a land flowing with milk and honey, they retained Egypt in their hearts. Our older brother is unable to embrace the festivities celebrating the homecoming of his younger brother. The spirit of reconciliation does not rule the older brother's heart. We who did not deserve the mercy of God cannot deny the mercy of God to anyone since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
Like Israel who ate of the yield of Canaan's land , and the father who killed the fattened calf, we taste and see the goodness of the Lord. What love the father has given us that we should be called the children of God, and so we are. The repentant prodigal son fell into the arms of a forgiving father. Our Father has also received us into his holy fellowship, not counting our trespasses against us, having reconciled us to himself in Christ.
Let us pray: Dear Jesus, having loved us with an everlasting love, ever embrace this poor sinner. Undeserving of such love, never let me go. When I wander, draw me back to yourself to be nourished again with the bread, which is your body, and the drink, which is your blood. Amen.