The 4th Sunday of Lent – March 27, 2022
Lectionary Readings: Josh. 5:9-12; Ps. 34:2-7; 2 Cor. 5:17-21; Lk. 15:1-3. 11- 32
Theme: Rejoicing in heaven
The readings tell us of times of rejoicing and of God’s loving acts of salvation for all. In the first reading, there is the rejoicing of the Israelites when they celebrated the Passover for the first time in the Promised Land and when they were no longer dependent on manna but were able to eat from the produce of the land.
In the second reading, there is joy over the realization that in Christ we are a new creation. We have the gift of reconciliation with God even if we are sinners.
And in the Gospel, also known as the Parable of the Lost Son, we learn that there is rejoicing when something that was lost is found. The theme of losing/finding/rejoicing is also in the other two parables, the parable of the lost sheep (Lk 15:1-7) and the parable of the lost coin (15: 8-10). In the three lost and found parables, there is rejoicing in heaven even for just one sinner who repents.
Repentance is an underlying key theme in the books of Luke and Acts. In Luke 3:3, Jesus announced a baptism for the conversion leading to the forgiveness of sins. The metanoia, which literally means changing one’s mind or outlook, brings echoes of the Jewish tradition called teshuvah, a Hebrew word translated as “returning.” The idea of repentance in Jewish thought is a return to the path of righteousness.
Repentance is not bestowed by saying one is sorry for the wrong he/she has done. According to Jewish philosopher Maimonides, repentance is a process that includes three stages: confession, regret and a vow not to repeat the misdeed. The true penitent, Maimonides says, is the one who finds himself with the opportunity to commit the same sin again yet declines to do so. Prayer, charity and fasting are also said to help one win forgiveness. In today’s Act of Contrition, we say we are heartily sorry for our sins and we “resolve to sin no more and to avoid the near occasion of sin.”
In the parable, the prodigal son upon realizing the wrong he had done, decided to go home to his father. The father’s acts of running to his returning son, embracing and kissing him, giving him the finest robe, ring, sandals and ordering of feast with fattened cow were not just acts of compassion and happiness. They were meant to give his repentant son another chance and a new beginning.
The older son was not so forgiving. In perhaps one of the saddest parts of the story, he refused to join the celebration. When he reproached his father, he referred to his brother as “your son” (conveying a sense of disgust and strong note of contempt). The father’s answer with the words “my son” and “your brother” shows us the depth of a father’s love for each of his children according to his need. He did not compare his sons to one another or measure one’s goodness against the other. There is no standard for all. Each one is loved for what or who he is. Each one is good and beautiful in his eyes.
For Reflection and Discussion: 1 Can you recall a time when you realized you have sinned or have done something wrong? Did you ask forgiveness? What else did you do? 2. Do you agree with the statement: I can forgive but not forget?
Bibliography: Johnson, Sacra Pagina: The Gospel of Luke (Minnesota, 1991), Parsons, Culy and Stigall, Luke: Handbook of the Greek Text (Texas, 2010), https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/repentance/
This week’s Sunday Liturgy Commentary was prepared by
Minerva Generalao, Philippines, Bat Kol Alumna 2014