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Sunday Scripture: We have to celebrate and rejoice

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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

By Sister Betty J. Lillie, S.C.

Fourth Sunday of Lent: Joshua 5:9a, 10-12; Psalm 34: 2-7;  2 Corinthians 5:17-21;  Luke 15: 1-3, 11-32

It may seem a little strange to hear the words celebrate and rejoice on the Fourth Sunday of Lent. But that is what our Gospel parable tells us to do (Luke 15:32). Even in Lent the Christian people are an Alleluia people. We rejoice at our own response to the grace God gives us in our lives with Him, and we also rejoice at God’s merciful love that includes all others who open themselves to the love of the Lord.

So, rejoice and be glad! We have a God who loves us, and lets us grow through our own mistakes to a more mature attitude in our religious practice. If we look at Luke’s passage that is usually titled “The Prodigal Son” (Luke 15:11-32), our mindset might veer toward calling the son wasteful or recklessly extravagant with his resources. However, some interpreters would say that in reality it was the father who showed extravagant generosity to the younger son in allowing him to take responsibility for his own decision to break out of the patriarchal lifestyle, and to learn from his own experience how to grow up.
 
If the father in the story can be taken for a figure of the Lord, then we see a father/God who is prodigally/extravagantly generous with the young man.  Surely the father must have suspected that the son would not be successful in his experiment, so the son’s situation when he returned was no surprise.  But the father saw him coming back and ran to embrace him with loving compassion. Then he set about having a celebration.

Of course there was friction from the elder son, but the father transcended that and rejoiced and was glad that his son was back home. What we notice is that with the father there was no reservation in taking the son back. Nor was there any sense in the son’s being thereafter in an inferior position in the family. His father took him back in a spirit of rejoicing, and no doubt the son in turn was grateful and rejoiced in the father’ love. Maybe we ought to think more of the story being about the prodigal Father! And then think of our prodigal God!

From that consideration we can move to what Paul said to the Corinthians about the ministry of reconciliation. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old has passed away, behold the new has come.” The apostle beseeched the new Christians on behalf of Christ to be reconciled to God who did not count their trespasses against them and entrusted to them, and the whole church, the ministry of reconciliation.
 
It was through Christ’s redemptive act that we have the opportunity to become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:17-21). In Paul’s terms we are ambassadors for Christ through whom God reconciles the world to himself.
 
With the psalmist we can magnify the Lord and praise His name together.  Those who look to Him shall never be ashamed (Psalm 34).

Sister Betty Jane is a faculty member at the Athenaeum of Ohio.

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