Fourth Sunday of Lent, March 14
Luke 15: 1-3, 11-32
The Gospel selection for this Fourth Sunday of Lent is the Parable of the Prodigal Son, found only in the Gospel of St. Luke. It is a parable of the love and forgiveness of the Father for his children. It is a parable I was told to read over and over and over again to be assured of the Father’s forgiveness for myself during the beginning of my recovery from the disease of alcoholism. The complete unconditional forgiveness of the Father for the Prodigal in the parable convinced me of his love and forgiveness for me as well. I was able to surrender my guilt and shame to the Father and have never taken it back again.
The Prodigal Son dissipated the inheritance freely given him by his father. Being destitute and dying of hunger, he decided to return to his father as one of his servants where at least he would be fed. He prepared a speech to give to the his father stating that he was no longer worthy to be his son and then he headed for home. The father, I think, knew his son would return and watched and waited for the day. I picture him going to a high place on his property where he could see a long way off. There he would watch the horizon daily for the sign of his son’s return. And one day he saw the black spot on the horizon that was his son coming home, and he was overcome with joy.
When the father saw the son coming, he didn’t just pull up a log and sit there and wait for him to arrive. He ran to meet him and when he had him in his arms again, he hugged and kissed him. His son has come home! The son began to rattle off his prepared speech, but the father wasn’t listening to it at all. He shouted to his servant to bring a cloak, a ring and some sandals and he put them on his son. He wasn’t just making him look decent coming from a pig pen, but was returning to him all the son thought he had lost – his position as son in the family. The cloak, ring and sandals were signs of that position and the father restored it to him completely. Then he threw a big party. His son was lost and had returned, he had died and now he came back to life again!
A beautiful story. Beautiful for the son and beautiful for us who read it. For no matter how we dissipate our relationship with the Father, he will treat us with love and forgiveness when we return to him. Many look at repentance as a negative thing, giving up something I want to do that could harm my relationship with the Father. But it is positive and life-giving all the way. We return to his way, truth and life and he forgives us and loves us just as before.
Let us thank our heavenly Father for always being so loving and forgiving to his children. His love and forgiveness know no bounds!
Monday of the Fourth Week of Lent, March 15
John 4: 43-54
Today, Monday of the Fourth Week of Lent, we reach the half-way point of the Lenten season. The Gospel for today asks us to check on the faith and trust we have in God. Jesus now returns to Galilee to the city of Cana where had turned the water into wine. Here he is met by a royal official whose son was very ill in Capernaum. This man was a man of faith. He had heard of Jesus’ works elsewhere and when he heard he was in Galilee he went to him and asked him to come to Capernaum and heal his son. Jesus said to him, “You may go; your son will live.” Jesus was not going to go with the official. He simply told him to return to Capernaum and he would find his son alive and well. The man believed what Jesus had said, and on his way back he was met by his slaves who told him his son had been healed at exactly the time Jesus had said he would be healed. The man’s faith and trust in Jesus was rewarded with a miraculous healing.
How many times this same thing happened in the Scriptures. Faith and trust in Jesus cause marvelous things to happen. “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.”
Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Lent, March 16
John 5: 1-16
Today’s Gospel story finds Jesus again in Jerusalem. Here he goes to the Sheep Gate where there was a pool named Bethesda. This pool was thought to have healing powers and its remains have been excavated and may be seen yet today near St. Ann’s Church in Jerusalem. Legend tells the story of an angel coming to stir up the water of the pool periodically and the first to enter the pool after the stirring of the waters was healed. There Jesus found a man who had been ill for 38 years and Jesus asked him if he wanted to be well. The man replied, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; while I am on my way, someone else gets there before me.”
This was more than the Compassionate Jesus could bear. He said to the man, “Rise, take up your mat, and walk.” Immediately the man became well and walked! Let us pause for a moment and recount the many, many times the Compassionate One has done the same thing for us when we were in trouble.
Jesus, thank you for your boundless care and compassion.
Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Lent, March 17
John 5: 17-30
HAPPY ST. PATRICK’S DAY to all the Irish people and their beloved Ireland on this their feast. May God bless you all today and always!
Today’s Gospel selection embodies one of those long narratives of Jesus that John’s Gospel is so famous for. He makes it sound like Jesus is being quoted verbatim so we will pay closer attention to what is being said. The point of this whole Gospel is not that if we believe in Jesus and try to follow his way, truth and life, he will find ourselves without any problems and never have to experience death. Our experience tells us differently. We will have troubles and difficulties. These things are part of life.
Life is not a bowl of cherries without any troubles whatsoever. And death will come one day to all of us. The point of this Gospel is that these troubles and difficulties will be easier for us to carry if we have the Lord walking with us. And the death we will all experience will give way to new life, the abundant and eternal life given by Jesus. Let a word to the wise be sufficient!
Thursday of the Fourth Week of Lent, March 18
John 5: 31-47
In today’s Gospel the long discourse of Jesus continues. In this Gospel Jesus gives the people who have rejected him his credentials, as it were, the reasons they should believe in him. He preaches the same message preached by John the Baptist. John was his herald, the burning lamp preceded Jesus. Jesus was the one the Jewish people were waiting for. His miraculous deeds show he came from the Father of all. Yet, the people persist in their disbelief.
The world is still pretty much the same. There are many who still do not believe Jesus is the Son of God, the Anointed One who is to come. They do not accept the way, the truth and the life. Once again, as we have remarked before, the proof is in the pudding. If all of those who do not believe would only act as if they did believe for a while, put their trust and faith in Jesus and imitate his ways of love, forgiveness and service to others, they would prove to themselves that he is who he says he is, the Son of the Father.
Lord, give us the wherewithal to increase the faith of those who do not believe.
Solemnity of Joseph, Husband of Mary, March 19
Mt. 1: 16, 18-21, 24
The Preface of the Mass is a changeable prayer of thanksgiving that precedes and introduces the Eucharistic prayer in the Mass. It always opens or begins with the invocation inviting us to “lift up our hearts,” and then, “let us give thanks to the Lord.”
The people respond, “It is right and just” to do so and the Celebrant then continues by saying, “It is truly right and just to praise (or to thank) you.” And so the thanksgiving begins. It is, as we said above, a changeable prayer. It changes with the occasion or the feast being celebrated. This prayer goes back to the very early Liturgies of the Church and sometimes it even explains the feast or the occasion being celebrated. It concludes with the Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty that precedes the Eucharistic prayer. There are 84 Prefaces in the present Roman Sacramentary.
I mention all of this about the Preface of the Mass because, as I said, it often explains the feast or the object of the feast being celebrated. So it is with the Feast of Joseph, Husband of Mary, that we celebrate today. There is a particular Preface for the Feast of St. Joseph. We really don’t know too much about Joseph from the Gospels. The little we do know is found in the Preface for the feast. I am going to include this Preface in our homily today for our reflection and meditation on St. Joseph.
Father, all-powerful and ever-living God,
We do well always and everywhere to give you thanks
As we honor Saint Joseph.
He is that just man,
That wise and loyal servant,
Whom you placed at the head of your family.
With a husband’s love he cherished Mary,
The virgin Mother of God.
With fatherly care he watched over Jesus Christ your son,
Conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Through Christ the choirs of angels
And all the powers of heaven
Praise and worship your glory.
May our voices blend with theirs
As we join in their unending hymn: Holy, Holy……
St. Joseph, pray for all of us.
Saturday of the Fourth Week of Lent, March 20
John 7: 40-53
Today’s Gospel gives us some of the thinking of the people of the time about Jesus. Who did they think he was? What were they saying about him?
Some said, “This is truly the Prophet.” Others said, “This is the Christ.” Yet others said,“The Christ will not come from Galilee, will he?” Some were amazed, “Never before has anyone spoken like this.” Others inquired, “Have you been deceived?” Finally, Nicodemus said, “Does our law condemn a man before it first hears him and finds out what he is doing?”
The Gospel goes on to say: “So a division occurred in the crowd because of him.” That division still continues today. What are some of the things you hear said about Jesus today? What do you say about him?