Fourth Sunday of Lent
After the Exodus the Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years. During this period too God provided for their necessities. He gave them manna to eat, gave them water from the rock. Life was hard, but without God’s special protection they could not have lived that life. When they reached the Promised Land manna stopped and they could eat the produce of the land. They celebrated the occasion. They celebrated the Passover and the Unleavened Bread, in gratitude to God for His wonderful actions in their life.
We too wander in the desert of sin and are in need of returning home. The “Father” has not abandoned us; He provides for our needs and is waiting for us.
All the preparations that go on during Lent – fasting, prayer, almsgiving etc. – are nothing compared to the lavish welcome that awaits the sons and daughters when they return to the Father. In the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus the ultimate reconciliation between God and of all humankind was accomplished. We follow Christ with the certainty that one day we will receive that welcome provided we continue our daily effort to be reconciled with God and with one another.
In the word of St. Paul, those who have accepted this good news are also ambassadors for Christ. As a preacher of the gospel and a teacher of its values, and by virtue of his own conversion to Christ, Paul had become an ambassador. His life and his mission, therefore, had become “sacramental” in the sense that he was a living sign of what God had done for all sinners in Christ. In today’s second reading, 2 Cor. 5:17-21, Paul encourages his readers to live similarly sacramental lives.
The Gospel story of the prodigal son, or rather, the parable of the loving Father, is another strong expression of God’s forgiveness and the joy of returning home. The prodigal son repents for forfeiting the father’s love and returns home. The father with great love receives him and rejoices. It is given as an image of our return to our ultimate home in heaven, our promised land as a result of the Father’s forgiveness of our sinfulness. We need to remember that we all are sinners, in need of repentance and be reconciled with God and with one another, to be recipients of God’s generous mercy