4th Sunday of Lent
As you begin, take a moment of silence be attentive to God’s presence. Invite your body, mind and spirit to slow down. Be aware of any distractions around you or within you…
What grace or gift do you ask God for as you begin this prayer time?
Now all the tax-collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, ‘This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.’
So he told them this parable:
Then Jesus said, ‘There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, “Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.” So he divided his property between them. A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and travelled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself he said, “How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.’ ” So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. Then the son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” But the father said to his slaves, “Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!” And they began to celebrate.
‘Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. He replied, “Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.” Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. But he answered his father, “Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!” Then the father said to him, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.”
This parable, which happens to be the longest of all the parables that Jesus shares, is a familiar one for most of us. The wisdom of the Church to place these readings of reconciliation and celebration in Lent is a sure sign that it is food for our journey to Easter. Compassion is the key that unlocks the way of the heart. The father in the parable gives us a glimpse into the heart of God. There are several examples of this and the two I wish to note are when the younger son returns and when the older son will not join the party. The father does not wait, in either circumstance, to judge or condemn the sons. Rather, he meets them where they are; one on the road coming home and the other in the field. By meeting them where they are, the father never says, I told you so. The father’s compassion is an active waiting. He never forces either of them to come into the house. His generosity and compassion embraces their repentant and angry hearts. Our God waits for us in active ways. When we choose to sin and distance ourselves from God, God waits for us in the people and events that surround us. Then when we experience God’s compassion through the words or actions of others or in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we are again reminded that God’s heart is much larger than we can ever imagine or comprehend.
Take time to reread the passage.
What word or phrase remains with you?
As you think about your life, What ways do I actively wait and meet people where they are at?Do I place a greater value on being right rather than being compassionate? Are there times when I make choices that prevent me from accepting God’s compassion?
Take a moment to ask God to journey with you through the fourth week of Lent. Be mindful of the Lenten promises you have made.
Pause and share with God the needs and prayers that rest on your heart this day. Amen.
Written by: Michelle Garlinski, SNJM