4th Sunday of Lent (C)
Fr. Tony’s Homily
Fr. Tony’s Homily
Fr. Tony’s Homily
ADVENTIST MEDIA (3:00) – Imagine celebrating by lifting up a glass of beer in one painting and then kneeling down with tattered clothes in another. The song “Coming Home” is the feature of this story as we learn how Rembrandt discovered a loving God – a God who accepted Rembrandt no matter what.
Traditionally, the Fourth Sunday of Lent is called Laetare Sunday (Rejoice Sunday). Anticipating Easter joy, today’s readings invite us to rejoice by being reconciled with God through repentance and the confession of our sins and by celebrating our coming home to be with our loving and forgiving God.
Rembrandt’s Painting of the Prodigal Son
In 1986 Henri Nouwen, a Dutch theologian and writer, toured St. Petersburg, Russia, the former Leningrad. While there he visited the famous Hermitage where he saw, among other things, Rembrandt’s painting of the Prodigal Son. The painting was in a hallway and received the natural light of a nearby window. Nouwen stood for two hours, mesmerized by this remarkable painting. As he stood there the sun changed, and at every change of the light’s angle he saw a different aspect of the painting revealed. He would later write: “There were as many paintings in the Prodigal Son as there were changes in the day.”
It is difficult for us to see something new in the parable of the Prodigal son because we have heard the story so often. Yet, I would suggest that just as Henri Nouwen saw a half dozen different facets in Rembrandt’s painting of the Prodigal Son, so, too, are there many different facets in the story itself.
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 Responsorial Psalm (Ps 34), a rejoicing Psalmist invites us, “Glorify the Lord with me; let us together extol His Name!”
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.
Today’s Gospel celebrates the joy of the prodigal son on his “homecoming” where he discovers 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-righteousness and self-justification by imitating the repentant younger brother. Let us admit the truth that we are an assembly of sinful people, repentant, and now we are ready to receive God’s forgiveness and to experience Jesus’ Personal Presence in the Holy Eucharist as our loving and forgiving God.
Choose as many as time allows
1) We need to accept the fact that we are all prodigal children who have squandered our inheritance from our Father. There is a spiritual famine even in countries with a booming economy. Because of this spiritual famine, we resemble the younger son who lived with pigs. Examples of this spiritual famine can be seen in 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 among and between people. Sometimes this “spiritual famine” exists in our own families and can be seen when we condemn some of our family members to “survival-level” existence, and even contribute to the death of some of them by refusing to associate with them. Let us accept the fact that we have been squandering God’s abundant blessings not only in our country and in our families, but also in our personal lives.
2) Lent is a time to “pass over,” from a world of sin to a world of reconciliation. The story of the prodigal son asks each of us an important question:
“Will you accept the Father’s forgiveness and partake of the banquet, or will you remain outside?”
Lent is a time to transform hatred into love, conflict into peace, death into eternal life. The message of Lent then, is, “We implore you, in Christ’s name: be reconciled to God,” as St. Paul tells us.
The first step, of course, is to do as the younger son did: “When he came to himself, he said: ‘I will break away and return to my father, and say to him, “Father, I have sinned against you.”‘” At every Mass, we come to our loving Heavenly Father’s house as prodigal children.
- We begin the Mass acknowledging that we have sinned and have closed our hearts to God’s perfect love: (“I no longer deserve to be called your child, so do with me as you will”).
- Next, we listen to the Word that heals our broken and imperfect relationships with God (“say the Word and I shall be healed“).
- In the Offertory, we give ourselves back to the Father, and this is the moment of our surrendering our sinful lives to God our Father.
- At the consecration, we hear God’s invitation through Jesus: “… this is My Body, which will be given up for you… this is the chalice of My Blood … which will be poured out for you…” (=”All I have is yours”).
- In Holy Communion, we participate in God’s feast of reconciliation, the Holy Eucharist, the gift of unity with God and with His whole family. Here, we experience again the fully loving, give-and-take relationship with Him and His family, our restored brothers and sisters whom God gave us first in our Baptism.
Let us come to the house of God as often as we can to be reconciled with God, our forgiving Father, by asking His pardon and forgiveness, and to enjoy the Eucharistic banquet of reconciliation and acceptance He has prepared for us, His returned prodigal sons and daughters.
3) We need to accept the loving offer of our Heavenly Father: “All I have is yours”.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
(Robert Frost in “Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening”)
Faraway hills and forest look green; there are many attractions in life; there are many voices saying to us, “Follow me,” or “Follow your desires and you will find happiness.” But the best and the only real offer of lasting happiness is from God our Father, “All I have is yours.” God our Heavenly Father stands outside our door waiting for us to open it to Him. For the remainder of Lent, let us try to make every effort to answer that invitation from our Heavenly Father, “All I have is yours.” Each Lent offers us sinners a chance to return home with a confession of sins, where we will find His welcome and open-armed love. Such a confession will enable us to hasten toward Easter with the eagerness of Faith and love, and it will make possible the rejoicing which today’s liturgy assures us in our Lord’s words: “There is more joy in Heaven over the one sinner who does penance than over the ninety-nine just who do not need penance.”
End of homily
Jokes of the Week
At the end of Mass, some priests like to offer a joke to their parishioners. Please be sensitive though to particular circumstances or concerns. Some Jokes may not be suitable for particular times, placeS, or congregations.
# 1: Sad at prodigal’s return: The Sunday School teacher was explaining the story of the Prodigal Son to his class, clearly emphasizing the resentment the older brother expressed at the return of his brother. When he finished telling the story, he asked the class, “Now who was really sad that the prodigal son had come home?” After a few minutes of silence, one little boy raised his hand and confidently stated, “The fatted calf.”
# 2: “Release this guilty wretch at once!” The Prussian king, Frederick the Great, was once touring a Berlin prison. The prisoners all fell on their knees before him to proclaim their innocence – except for one man, who remained silent. Frederick called to him, “Why are you here?” “Armed robbery, Your Majesty,” was the reply. “And are you guilty?” “Yes indeed, Your Majesty, I deserve my punishment.” Frederick then summoned the jailer and ordered him, “Release this guilty wretch at once. I will not have him kept in this prison where he will corrupt all the fine innocent people who occupy it!”
# 3: Letter from Prodigal Son? Dear folks, I feel miserable because I have to keep writing for money. I feel ashamed and unhappy to have to ask for another hundred, but every cell in my body rebels. I beg on bended knee that you forgive me. Your son, Marvin. P.S. I felt so terrible I ran after the mailman who picked this up in the box at the corner. I wanted to take this letter and burn it. I prayed that I could get it back. But it was too late. A few days later Marvin received a letter from his father. It said, “Your prayers were answered. Your letter never came!”
# 4: Reconciliation with a hook: 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!!”
Please be patient
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Please be patient
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