One Monk of the Order of Saint Benedict

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The Word of God and the Body of God reveal each other -- the homily worships both.

March 14, 2010

For the Fourth Sunday of Lent

Joshua 5:9a,10-12
2 Corinthians 5:17-21
Luke 15:1-3,11-32

In each of the three readings today, something tough comes to an end as something wonderful opens up.
In the first reading, the forty years of Israel’s wandering in the desert have come to an end.
After freeing his chosen people Israel from slavery in Egypt, God promised to be faithful to them.
In return, he asked them to promise likewise to him and to keep their promise.
Within days they broke their marriage bond with the Lord, turning to worship instead a golden calf.
For that and other sins, God made them wander forty years in the wild until the death of all who were older than twenty when they left Egypt. [Num. 14:29-33; Num. 32:11; Jos. 5:6]
Everyday for forty years, they had no food except the quail God sent each evening and the manna he sent each morning.
No food came on the weekly Sabbath, but what they saved from the day before.
Each day for forty years they had to trust that God would feed them.
After the wilderness swallowed the last of the sinful generation in death, their offspring crossed the Jordan River into Canaan, the Land of Promise.
Then, as the first reading says, “No longer was there manna for the Israelites, who that year ate of the yield of the land of Canaan.”
They did not wait for their new dough to take in yeast from the air.
Rather, as the first reading tells, they ate unleavened loaves and roasted grain from their first harvest.
It wasn’t a juicy “Thanksgiving dinner,” but was nonetheless a homecoming and a change from forty years of quail and manna.
Today’s Gospel also tells of a homecoming and new food.
The younger son could not wait for his old man to drop dead, but demanded his share of the inheritance ahead of time.
Off in a faraway land, he squandered it with prostitutes.
Famine came, leaving him starved and craving even what the hogs ate.
The story, however, is really about the incredible, extravagant father to whom he returned.
The father did not hold on to any anger he might have had, but opened his welcoming arms with rich blessings.
We see that he had been in mourning: “this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again; he was lost, and has been found.”
Though the younger man had stopped acting like a son to his father, the old man never stopped wanting to be a father to him: “this son of mine.”
The Lord Jesus has told this story to teach that Heaven’s King is like a father mourning and eager to welcome back richly his children lost in deadly sin.
If they turn back to him, God takes them into the promised land of his fatherly arms— “not counting their trespasses against them,” as the second reading says.
The parable’s father took back his disrespectful, scornful, ungrateful, demanding, impatient, selfish, squandering, whoremonger son.
Welcoming him back, he clothed him with his own finery, and feasted his return with a “Thanksgiving dinner” of freshly butchered, richly marbled veal.
It is not fair.
The second reading tells just how terribly unfair is the mystery of God.
For our sake, God the Father made Christ “to be sin”— Christ “who did not know sin”— so that in Christ “we might become the righteousness of God.”
Whoever is in Christ is a new creation:
the old things have passed away;
behold, new things have come.
And all this is from God,
who has reconciled us to himself through Christ....

We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

“We implore you on behalf of Christ.”
With the parable in today’s Gospel, Christ implored two groups of listeners.
First: “Tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to” him.
Tax collectors were Israelites squeezing the inheritance of their own fatherland and brother Israelites for the idol-worshiping, greedy Romans— “the swine” and “prostitutes” from “a distant country.”
The parable’s horrendously selfish younger son shows how terrible was the sin of the tax collectors in the eyes of Christ.
With the words of the younger son, Christ told the tax collectors and sinners how to make an abject apology to God.
“Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I no longer deserve to be called your son.”
The other group listening to Christ was the Pharisees and scribes.
The whole parable upholds that anyone— be he rebel, or be he loyal— anyone who turns willingly to God shall receive everything God has.
We believe that promise, and we say so every Sunday here at Mass.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come.
Amen.

Our faith in that calls us to let go of selfishness and lesser inheritances, not letting them hold us back from turning to God our Father.
We believe also that our Elder Brother, the Oldest Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, has always fleshed out the last words of the Father from the parable.
My son,
you are here with me always;
everything I have is yours.
But now we must celebrate and rejoice,
because your brother was dead
and has come to life again;
he was lost
and has been found.

The Oldest Son heeds our Father by vesting the repentant and the loyal in the robe, ring, and sandals of the Holy Spirit.
The Oldest Son sacrificed his real Body and Blood as the new and everlasting covenant feast that is the guarantee and beginning of our share in his inheritance.
It is not fair.
It is God’s prodigal mercy.
“We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”

UT IN OMNIBUS GLORIFICETUR DEUS
That God Be Glorified in All







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