Sunday, February 28, 2016

Fourth Sunday of Lent - March 6, 2016

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First Reading Commentary
The "reproach of Egypt" is a reference to the uncircumcised which would have been a humiliating experience for the Israelites held in captivity there and made to be slaves in a foreign land. 

The historian Josephus interpreted Gilgal to mean "liberty" but a more popular rendering is "rolled away" which links it to the Hebrew translation which reads as: "This day I have rolled away from you the reproach of Egypt." 

The manna ceases the day after the Passover which is a prophecy about Christ's Crucifixion that also occurred the day after the Passover.  But the old is superseded by the new and Christ's celebration of the Passover on Holy Thursday is when the true Manna is instituted.

Second Reading Commentary
Imagine that you've just been hired as a paid ambassador for Christ and your salary is your sole income to provide for your necessities in life.  In order to have some sense of job security, would you need to change anything about how you currently live your life? 
Lent has a way of bringing about some uncomfortable questions for reflection.  Confession can be considered a job performance review of self worth but the good news is that once you've completed this review you get to keep your job and the Boss will consider you a most valuable employee. 

Priests alone sacramentally reconcile us to God but as ambassadors of Christ, we all have a responsibility of showing the way to reconciliation.  To be called a new creation in Christ is the direct effect of grace on the soul.  Saint Paul's appeal is for all of us but is also surely a wake-up call for the Corinthians who are not reconciled to God.  Paul words about Christ being made sin is intended to have a shock value.  The Father allows the Son to be punished like a sinner "so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him."  It's really an incomprehensible, lopsided exchange of gifts.  We give to God our sins and He gives to us the crown of glory.

Gospel Commentary
What’s the difference in value between an old, tarnished quarter and a brand new, lustrous quarter?  There is no difference; they’re both worth twenty-five cents.  In God’s Eyes there’s no difference between someone who’s in a state of grace and a tarnished soul.  Both are infinitely loved by Him; both are valued as His child.  Our Lord's perfect love is not somehow less than perfect for the wounded soul.  The condition of the soul, however, should be a personal concern since damaged goods need to be repaired; and a soul in mortal sin without any concern for it is a choice to be separated from God.  Henry Nouwen, a Catholic priest and author of over thirty books, who also spent time as a missionary in Latin American countries working with the handicapped, once said: "We are all handicapped; some are more visibly handicapped than others." 

In the parable of the prodigal son, that which was lost has been found.  It would be improper to think that this Gospel is aimed only at those who are not serving the Lord or not walking with Him.  Every one of us is a sinner; therefore, every one of us is in need of repentance.  It is very arrogant of the Pharisees and scribes to complain about who Jesus dines with, for they fail to cast out the beam in their own eye.  It's always easy to reflect on a biblical passage and place ourselves in that scene by making ourselves the good guy.  But for Lent it may be a fruitful plan to become the bad guy because, let's face it, sometimes we are. 

Like the father in this parable, why is it so much easier to apply mercy to one's own children or even a spouse, but yet among mere acquaintances and co-workers, acting like a Pharisee, scribe, or the complaining older brother seems more like the norm?  Among us as individuals, these types of interrogative reflections will probably bring many different answers. 

In this parable, certainly the father represents our Lord Who runs out to embrace His wayward people who desire to come back to Him.  Notice the representation of the love that comes from our Lord; He embraces the penitent even before the confession of sin.  Perhaps less obvious but still evident though, is that our Lord is also represented by the younger son who haphazardly disperses his father’s estate.  Christ very freely offers the riches of His Father’s Kingdom to each and every one of us regardless of how undeserved we are. 

The older son in the parable is placed there as a caution to us.  He’s the one who thought his father’s forgiving and receptive attitude towards his younger brother was very unfair.  As Jesus tells us, there is rejoicing in heaven when one sinner repents (cf. Luke 15:7).  No one really knows beyond doubt who is in heaven but curiosity might make one wonder how many souls are there that lived corruptible and immoral lives.  To those of us who make every effort to follow the path of our Lord, it’s tempting to consider this unfair.  Saint Paul, however, asks the question: "Who has ever given Him [the Lord] anything so as to deserve return?" (Romans 11:35).  Also, in that same letter are the words: "As sin reigned through death, grace may reign by way of justice leading to eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 5:21). 

In life, perhaps there’s that someone who always plucks your last nerve.  The depths of God’s mercy are so unfathomable that it’s difficult to understand because it’s not always so easy for us to forgive.  The Sacrament of Penance is where we can find the Father embracing His child, welcoming him/her back home.  There is always hope even to the most hardened of sinners. 

Oscar Wilde said: "Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future."  Someday we will all meet our Lord face-to-Face.  He may wish to celebrate a feast because what was once lost has been found; or He may say: "You are here with Me always; everything I have is yours."  One scenario is not better than the other.  In either case, there is cause for rejoicing!  But our disposition or attitude towards whether or not to be reconciled is consequential.