4th Sunday of Lent

JOSH 5:9, 10-12; IICOR. 5: 17-21; LK 15:1-3, 11-32

An elderly man on the beach found a magic lamp. As he picked it up and started cleaning it, a genie appeared and said: “Because you have freed me I will grant you a wish.” The man responded. “I had a fight with my only and older brother thirty years ago. I want to be reconciled with him so that he may forgive me and start loving me.” The genie said, “I am glad that you did not ask for money or riches. Your wish is granted. Are you sick and about to die?” the genie enquired. “No way!” the man shouted. “But my unmarried, older brother is about to die and he’s worth about $60 million!!”

In the first reading, the Chosen People of God are portrayed as celebrating, for the first time in their own land, the feast of their freedom, by using wheat that had grown in the Promised Land. In today’s psalm, a rejoicing psalmist invites us, “Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.” In the second reading, St. Paul invites the Corinthian Christian community to rejoice because Jesus has reconciled them with God by his suffering and death.

Gandhi’s confession: Mohandas K. Gandhi, “the Father of the Nation” in India, in his famous autobiography, My Experiments with Truth, writes about his own experience of theft, confession and forgiveness as a schoolboy. “I was fifteen when I stole a bit of gold out of my brother’s armlet to clear a debt of about twenty-five rupees, (U.S. $3 in those days), which he had incurred. He had on his arm an armlet of solid gold. It was not difficult to clip a bit out of it. Well, it was done, and the debt cleared. But this became more than I could bear. I resolved never to steal again. I also made up my mind to confess it to my father. But I did not dare to speak…. I decided at last to write out the confession, submit it to my father, and ask his forgiveness. I wrote it on a slip of paper and handed it to him myself. In this note not only did I confess my guilt, but also requested an adequate punishment for it, and closed with a request to him not to punish himself for my offence. I also pledged myself never to steal in the future.”

“I was trembling as I handed the confession to my father. He was then confined to bed. I handed him the note and sat on his bed. He sat up to read it. He read it through, and pearl-drops trickled down his cheeks, wetting the paper. For a moment he closed his eyes in thought and then tore up the note. He again lay down. I also cried. I could see my father’s agony. Those pearl-drops of love cleansed my heart, and washed my sin away. Only he who has experienced such love can know what it is… This sort of sublime forgiveness was not natural to my father. I had thought that he would be angry, say hard things, and strike his forehead. But he was so wonderfully peaceful, and I believe this was due to my clean confession. A clean confession, combined with a promise never to commit the sin again, when offered before one who has the right to receive it, is the purest type of repentance. I know that my confession made my father feel absolutely safe about me, and increased his affection for me beyond measure.”

Today’s gospel celebrates the joy of the prodigal son on his “homecoming” to rediscover his father’s forgiving and overflowing love. It is also the story of the rejoicing of a loving and forgiving father who celebrates the return of his prodigal son by throwing a big party in his honor, a banquet celebrating the reconciliation of the son with his father, his family, his community and his God. At the same time, by presenting a self-righteous elder brother, the parable invites us to avoid self-justification by imitating the repentant younger brother. Let us admit the truth that we are an assembly of sinful people, ready to receive God’s forgiveness and to experience Jesus’ Personal Presence in the Holy Eucharist as a loving and forgiving God.

Let us return to our Heavenly Father with repentant hearts: As prodigal children, we are facing a spiritual famine all around us in the form of drug and alcohol abuse, fraud and theft in the workplace, murders, abortions and violence, premarital sex, marital infidelity and priestly infidelity, as well as in hostility between people. All of these evils have proliferated because we have been squandering God’s abundant blessings, not only in our country and in our families, but also in our personal lives. Hence, let us repent and return to our heavenly Father’s home.