HOMILY FOR THE FOURTH SUNDAY OF LENT,© MARCH 31ST, 2019:
Today’s readings tell us about God giving us newness of life. Quite frankly, the readings today are beautiful.
The first reading from Joshua tells us that God has removed the reproach of Egypt from Israel. That reproach was Israel’s slavery in Egypt. God has ended an era for the Israelites. The Exodus is over. God has led the Israelites into the Promised Land. This period of God’s deliverance concludes. They celebrate the Passover. The next day, the people eat of the produce of the land. So therefore, the manna ceases. It is not needed anymore. This is the end of an era. It is the beginning of a new era: the Israelites will now live in the Promised Land, free of slavery and reproach. God has kept His promise. The Israelites can trust Him completely. Today’s psalm, Psalm 34, is a thanksgiving psalm. The theme is God’s saving power and the fact that God watches over those who trust completely in Him.
St. Paul writes in his Second Letter to the Corinthians that God reverses human standards. God REVERSES them. God MAKES SOMETHING NEW: St. Paul himself. St. Paul has a new conviction. It is that since Christ died, all have died to sin, to self-seeking, and to self-aggrandizement. He tells the Corinthians that Christ’s death for our sins was also a promise that with Him, all will be truly raised up. There is something new: newness of life. It is Christ’s resurrection which provides this new perspective. This is a godly vision which restores all things. So St. Paul tells the Corinthians that we need to see things differently since Christ’s resurrection. Everything is new in Jesus Christ. There are new priorities. All that matters is that one is created anew, reborn. God can recreate us. That is the effect of grace upon our souls. God has reconciled the world to Himself in Christ. Furthermore, God, in Christ, has overcome the obstacle to our sinfulness. God can and does forgive us of our sins against Him. He reconciles Himself to us through Christ’s sacrificial death on the Cross. So now, we can become partners in this ministry of reconciliation. So St. Paul tells the Corinthians (and us today) that all who are in Christ are sent into the world with a new message: “Be reconciled.” St. Paul writes this: God has made the sinless Jesus Christ sin so that redemption could penetrate the darkest, most forbidding, isolated, and inhuman part of our human existence. God did this to bring us into holiness. All of this is truly something new, a new life because of Jesus’s sacrifice, coming on Good Friday. On that day, God allowed His Only Son, Jesus Christ, to suffer a punishment fit only for sinners, and in that sense, made Christ a sinner. God did that for us, to reconcile us to Him.
Jesus tells us the beautiful parable of the Prodigal Son. Jesus’s parable draws us into God’s world. We are to see and to act as God would. Jesus shows us the breath-taking acceptance available in God’s kingdom. The story is not about the prodigal son. The story is about the father’s love for his two sons. The younger son demands his inheritance. Then he cuts ties with his family, with no regrets. There is no hope of return. Then calamity strikes. He ends up lower than the swine. The swine eat. He doesn’t. He can’t. So he comes to his senses and offers to return to his father as a hired servant. He rehearses his speech. But his father still loves him! He runs to meet his son and he immediately restores dignity to him. The father accepts his wayward son with no thought of recrimination. The son is alive. The son himself is more important than anything he has done. That is a new perspective. Then the father goes out to bring in the elder son. He loves both sons and wants them both to be happy, together. The elder son is trapped in his self-righteousness. He cannot see beyond propriety. The father acknowledges the loyalty of this elder son but he says that is beyond the point. What is happening is much more important: A son and a brother has returned from the dead. He is lost and has been found. Everything else fades in importance. What is important is reunion. This is something new. God is astonishingly kind to man’s frail nature. God’s mercy even anticipates the sinner’s repentance and pursues him to render him worthy of forgiveness and new life. This is indeed something new: newness of life. One era is over and a new one begins.
Jesus shows us in this parable the joy which overflows from God His Father’s heart when He wins back one of His children by repentance. Publicans and sinners draw near to Jesus to hear Him. Jesus speaks this parable to answer the Scribes’ and Pharisees’ complaints against the familiar friendliness He shows sinners. Jesus speaks this parable to inspire confidence in sinners to approach God for forgiveness, love, and mercy. Jesus speaks this parable also to those friends of God who, themselves, do not realize the fathomless depth of God’s mercy to sinners.
There is one more thing. All of this leads up to Easter Sunday. But the Roman Catholic Church, Holy Mother Church, in her infinite wisdom, has established the first Sunday after Easter Sunday as Divine Mercy Sunday. All of us can seek His mercy. All of us can receive this newness of life.
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