this and next Sunday there are options for two sets of readings. If
a parish has catechumens and people preparing for full communion at
the Easter Vigil, the parish may choose to use the readings from the
A Cycle. We have posted reflections from the A cycle for the Fourth
Sunday of Lent on our webpage. The 4th
Sunday of Lent - Year A
We certainly are familiar with
today’s gospel story. We have called it "the Prodigal Son." Some
commentators have suggested it be named, "The Prodigal Father" –
after the true spendthrift in the story. Others have suggested that
the title shouldn’t focus, or slant it towards one or another
character. They suggest it be titled, "A Father and Two Sons."
Nevertheless, however we choose to name it, this parable is very
familiar to churchgoers and bible readers. We can almost repeat it
From its opening line the action
starts immediately: the younger son makes his brash request asking
for, "the share of your estate that should come to me." Imagine
asking a parent for the inheritance you are to get when he or she
dies! The son is treating the father as if he were dead, what a
callous request. Most parents would take exception to the child
rearing methods of this father. And they would be right! But this is
not a parable on how to raise children. It has to do with how things
work between God and us.
We know the rest of the story. I
find it interesting to track it by the verbs: collected, set off,
squandered, spent everything, hired himself, tend the swine, longed
to eat, coming to his senses, he thought, got up, went back. The
action, both the decline and return, is quick and to the point. The
son’s fall and subsequent recovery happen decisively. Once he
realizes his hopeless situation ("coming to his senses"), he seizes
the chance to get help. Lent is supposed to be a time when we "come
to our senses," realizing that what we have been doing is
unproductive and unsatisfying, producing emptiness in our lives and
a yearning for God. We "come to our senses," and decide we have to
change. Like the son we are invited to do something quickly, without
fearing the reception we will get when we turn back. The parable
stirs up a confidence in what we will find when we return. "I know I
will be well received," we can say with confidence, because of this
parable. The psalm response urges us on, "Taste and see the goodness
of our God." Turning back to God provides a chance to experience
just how good God is, a real spendthrift with mercy! The son has
confidence in being able to return; he just hadn’t expected the
extra special treatment he got.
The parable is trying to instigate
confidence in anyone who hears it: we might feel hesitate about
turning back to God, especially if we feel we have done this too
many times in the past. We might even suspect the "purity" of our
motives, the sincerity of our desire to return. Considering, the
son’s less-than noble reasons for his going to his father – his
belly was empty and he remembered that even his father’s workers had
"more than enough to eat" – we need fear no test of our own motives.
Just head back home, the parable urges, God will rush out to make
the return easy. In fact, when dealing with the divine, even the
instinct to turn around and go home, is a gift of God. Similarly,
the parable hints that there is something of the father at work on
the son as the boy considers his plight, for he recalls the father’s
generosity even to hired workers. I doubt that could be said about
other farm owners and their employees at the time. Can that even be
said now? "More than enough to eat"? The memory of the generous
father is the grace that stirs the boy to pack up and head for home.
When the father and son meet, the atmosphere of the father’s love
and acceptance make confession of guilt easy.
Whenever we turn back to God, the
parable urges us to trust in a warm welcome. The story can be
painted in other ways. I think of a big hearted grandmother we go to
in order to apologize for breaking her favorite baking dish and she
just shushes you up and says, "Forget about it – how about some tea
and cookies? I just baked them."
Would that the story ended here,
at the embrace between father and son and the verse, "Then the
celebration began." But there is a second half, a darker side to the
story. Jesus seems to be pointing this part of the story to the
Pharisees and scribes who were complaining about Jesus’ welcome of
sinners. Jesus was making it much too easy, in their estimation, for
people who hadn’t worked as hard at their religion as the observant
Pharisees and scribes. In Jesus’ preaching it is clear that he
envisions God’s throwing a party, flinging open the doors to anyone
who wants to turn a repentant eye in God’s direction. Instead of the
religious leaders joining the festive parade into the feast, they
put up protest and stamp their feet in disapproval: God isn’t
playing by the rules they had established and scrupulously observed.
From outside the house comes the
elder son. He is the hard working responsible one. Any parent would
have been proud of such a child. Unlike his younger brother, he
learned well the lessons his parents must have taught him about hard
work and living up to expectations. But what he didn’t inherit from
his father (and maybe his mother too!) was his large, forgiving and
celebratory heart. Despite the son’s recalcitrance, the father
doesn’t give up on him, just as he didn’t give up on his brother.
The father makes a second trip outside the house and goes looking
for another wayward son. This one wants to be disconnected from what
he has perceived in his brother and what he has learned about his
father. How embarrassed the responsible son would have been when the
neighbors and town folk hear about the "foolish father who wouldn’t
stay home" – another name for the parable?
We may have both siblings in us.
How many times have we merrily and immaturely set out on our own,
fallen on our face and been grateful and surprised when we came to
our senses and returned to a waiting and patient God? We have the
other side in us too: we are not the greatest sinners in the world.
We probably are pretty observant folk, when it comes to religious
and civil rules. We may have even contributed to the latest
expansion of our parish church and supported our favorite
educational and charitable outreach programs. However, there is
always the danger of feeling more an obligation to do the good
things we are doing and less a sense of celebration and gratitude
for the God who has been so generous to us. We can feel like the
elder son who has "served...all these years." I wouldn’t want a
child just feeling this sense of duty and obligation to me. There is
no real loving relationship of child to parent – suggested in the
way the elder son speaks of his time of service to his father. Turns
out that both brothers have to "come to their senses." For one
reason or another, both needed to come from outside and return to
the father’s house.
The parable evokes a sense of
trust as we turn away from our own meanderings and turn back to God
this Lent. The grace of the parable encourages us to expect our God
to behave like a parent who has longed to see us and has waited
expectantly for us. The parable also touches the older child in us,
urging us to rejoice in any brother or sister returning to their
senses. We will want to be with those we know who are struggling to
get free of addictive behavior or substances. Those who want to come
"home" to their true or better selves. We will want to support
teenagers who have left their homes either physically, or have
checked out emotionally. What do they need from us at this point in
their lives? We will want to be less judgmental against those who
have had to flee their lands because war, economics, or nature have
deprived them of food for themselves and their families. We need to
put aside the elder son’s judgmental attitude against those who come
looking for food or work.
The elder son may be justified in
his distress and anger. After all, his father has acted in a very
unpredictable way and shaken the foundation on which the son has
stood. If this father, to whom he has been so subservient, has
thrown all standards and expected ways of behaving up in the air by
his flamboyant acceptance of his wayward son, then how can the elder
brother rely on this father for his security? The father is
unpredictable.Who knows what the old man will do next? So now both
sons are going to have to live in trust: that generous forgiveness
is always there for them. No matter how foolishly they act, they can
expect their father to outdo himself in forgiveness and welcome.
When need arises, this father will be there for them, no matter how
foolish he may appear to onlookers.
Click here for a link to this
Almighty God, restore the dignity of our human
long disfigured by excess but now restored by the
discipline of self denial.
—Missal of Pius V
So we are ambassadors for Christ, as
if God were appealing through us.
2 Corinthians 5:20
In this passage, Paul invites us
to celebrate the way in which God has reconciled all things to
himself in Christ so that we can become a new creation in Christ.
How wonderfully appropriate to this Sunday of rejoicing (Laetare
Sunday). Also known as Rose Sunday, we are given a glimpse at the
wonderful new beginnings that come with Easter resurrection.
In the Second Reading, where this
passage is found, the Greek word katallasso means "to reconcile" or
"to decisively change." We are the ones called to reconcile and
change what makes us less Christ-like. How can we be ambassadors for
Christ if our lives do not reflect the actions of Jesus? This is
especially true in our response, or lack of response, to the
oppressed, the poor, the outcasts, and the other.
The Catholic faith is both
vertical in our relationship with God AND horizontal in our
relationships with our fellow human beings and our living earth.
Devotion to God is incomplete without the horizontal awareness that
God is present in every aspect of God’s creation. We can see this in
the example that Pope Francis offers (1/21/18): "Jesus walks through
the city with his disciples and begins to see, to hear, to notice
those who have given up in the face of indifference, laid low by the
grave sin of corruption. He begins to bring to light many situations
that had killed the hope of his people and to awaken a new hope. He
calls his disciples and invites them to set out with him. He calls
them to walk through to the city, but at a different pace; he
teaches them to notice what they had previously overlooked, and he
points out new and pressing needs. Repent, he tells them. The
Kingdom of Heaven means finding in Jesus a God who gets involved
with the lives of his people. He gets involved and involves others
not to be afraid to make of our history a history of salvation" (cf.
Mk 1:15, 21). This is what it means to act as an ambassador for
What injustice have you ignored in
our own greater community? Need some places to put your energy for
the work of Christ on earth? Check out the many ministries we have
outside the walls of our parish on our website: http://www.raleighcathedral.org/social-justice-programs
Pass on the hope that you have
---Barbara Molinari Quinby, MPS
Director of Social Justice Ministries
Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral,
4th SUNDAY OF LENT
March 31, 2019
Joshua 5: 9a, 10-12; Psalm 34; 2 Corinthians 5: 17-21; Luke 15: 1-3,
By: Jude Siciliano, OP
Mini-reflections on the Sunday scripture readings designed for
persons on the run. "Faith Book" is also brief enough to be posted
in the Sunday parish bulletins people take home.
From today’s 2 Corinthian’s
"Whoever is in Christ is a new
creation: the old things have passed away;
behold, new things have come."
Paul says our relationship with
God was restored, not through any work of ours, but through God’s
initiative in Christ. It wasn’t just Jesus’ sacrificial death that
accomplished our reconciliation, but his sacrificial life.
Throughout his life he poured himself out for us in love. This was
God’s doing and, if we accept it in faith, we are reconciled to God.
So we ask ourselves:
- As we reflect on our lives
this Lent, what feels "old": a worn-out way of behaving?
- Have we noticed any signs of
new life in those very areas?
POSTCARDS TO DEATH ROW INMATES
"One has to strongly affirm that
condemnation to the death penalty is an inhuman measure that
humiliates personal dignity, in whatever form it is carried out."
Inmates on death row are the most
forgotten people in the prison system. Each week I post in this
space several inmates’ names and addresses. I invite you to write a
postcard to one or more of them to let them know we have not
forgotten them. If you like, tell them you heard about them through
North Carolina’s, "People of Faith Against the Death Penalty." If
the inmate responds you might consider becoming pen pals.
Please write to:
- Jeffrey Kandies #0221506 (On
death row since 4/20/9
- Vincent M. Wooten #0453231
- John R. Elliott #0120038
----Central Prison, 4285 Mail
Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-4285
For more information on the
Catholic position on the death penalty go to the Catholic Mobilizing
check the interfaith page for People of Faith Against the Death
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will find "Preachers’ Exchange," which includes "First
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