Homily - Laetare Sunday 4th Sunday of LENT Year C Fr. Lubem Robert Waya, osj

31 March 2019 

Homily for Laetare Sunday 4th Sunday of Lent Year C. 31-03-2019 by Fr. Lubem Robert Waya, osj.
First Reading: Joshua 5:9-12
Psalm: Psalm 34:2-7
Second Reading: 2 Corinthians 5:17-21
Gospel: Luke 15:1-3, 11-32

The Season of lent which we embarked on since March 6 is halfway gone now gradually progressing like the journey the Israelites embarked on in Egypt. And today in the first reading from the book of Joshua, after crossing the Jordan, they make their first camping at Gilgal where God “rolled away” the shame of Egypt from them, and this became the first spot to be called the Promised Land. Their stop over at Gilgal which was the point of entry after over 40 years in the wilderness, was to celebrate their third Passover meal since the one in Egypt, in thanksgiving to God for finally bringing them home. This was a moment of joy for them acknowledging God’s grace that at last their destination is nigh. Today as we celebratelaetare Sunday, we are also called to rejoice despite all the odds, evils, sufferings, pains and hardships we experience, and those we have willingly undertaken as our Lenten observances, in the hope of our victory that the Lord’s resurrection at the great Passover feast of Easter is at hand. We today also celebrate Mothering Sunday to rejoice and thank God for the gift of our mothers and motherhood to the world. This too is a feast for the Church, who is called mater et magistra – mother and teacher, who never desires that any of her children strays from the truth.
In the past, the faithful on this day would make a pilgrimage back to the cathedral or their mother church where they were given the spiritual birth of baptism, to make an offering. Even slaves were on this day allowed to return home to visit their mothers before going back to their masters. These journey narratives culminate today in the Lukan journey narrative of the gospel reading – the parable of the prodigal father. Yes, it is commonly known as the parable of the ‘prodigal son,’ but only the first part is about the younger son whom we call prodigal. The second part is about the unforgiving elder Son. However, the real protagonist of the story is the Father who forgives without limits, so extravagant with his loving mercy which makes him also prodigal with forgiveness. So a good title for this parable would then be one that makes reference to him and to his love for his two sons, most especially the younger son who was prodigal with his inheritance. That is why it can properly also be called the parable of the prodigal father.
This parable renowned as the longest parable in the whole of the gospels, the queen of all parables and the greatest story told in human language, teaches us as Christians and all children of God, that forgiveness and reconciliation are the oxygen of Christianity. That is why it is considered by many as the summary of the entire gospels. Jesus in using this parable, shows us that the father in the parable is clearly God. The Pharisees and the Scribes to whom He addresses it represent the elder son, while the tax collectors and sinners on the other hand represent the younger son, and the two sons however represent us all.The younger son made a choice and demanded for his right – his inheritance – which normally should come to him at the death of his father. By this act he wished his father dead, and asserted his freedom and liberty from the father. This is what sin does to us too – we remove ourselves from the authority and security of God and ascribe to ourselves a false sense of freedom. But this liberty to sin is the greatest form of slavery, and this is what has enveloped our world today. Today there is a gross loss of the sense of sin. And as a result, we have allowed our lives to be defined by secular humanism and relativism. Today we want to be free from every form of authority and control – divine, religious, political, ecclesiastical, even conscience. And so we define everything in the manner that suits us. That is why today we subscribe to unwholesome practices in the name of civilization, such as gay marriage, transgenderisation, ectogenesis, surrogacy, Euthanasia, assisted suicide, and the likes. Today lies have becomes scopes, stealing is called lifting or fastness, abortion is flushing, fornication/adultery and the commercialization of human sexuality through prostitution have become hawking…a profession of some sort. What matters now is what I choose – my choice, my right. What I desire is my choice and I have the right to express the choice I make. Everything is I…individualism. That is why certain persons decide to kill others, and they feel it is right. The person becomes the subject that determines everything. And as a consequence, modern man is purely individualistic, greedy and selfish. He thinks only of himself like the prodigal son who said “give me my own share”. But left to ourselves alone we cannot manage our freedom. God is the guarantor of all freedom and we can only be truly free under His guiding authority. And so cut off from the father, the younger son could not invest his inheritance but squandered everything on vain living and fell below even the lowest living standard to the point of wishing to eat pigs’ feed…the worst condition of a man, especially a Jew. This is what sin does to us, making us lose our status as God’s adopted beloved sons and daughters.
However, it was in this affliction that the younger son came to his senses. This was his moment of contrition, repentance and conversion, when he examined his conscience and saw his sinfulness. He finally accepted his guilt for being irresponsible and was ready to make his home coming. Though he deserves nothing but reproach, his father still loved him and was ready to welcome him back. Jesus likewise wants us to know that God is always ready to forgive us no matter our sins, as long as we make up our minds to come back. He can forgive even the worst rogue among us here unconditionally. All we have to do is start walking back to God, and like the prodigal son, God is going to meet us even before our trip is finished. So if we are truly contrite and come to the confessional, God forgives us even before we complete saying ‘Bless me father for I have sinned.’
We too who have being forgiven by the father should learn to also forgive those who have sinned against us. When we act like the elder son and decide that someone should not be restored to the Father’s love, we are in fact excluding ourselves from the Banquet of love. It means that we are judging others and we are close minded. What we see in the parable is that God is open-minded, and we who desire to be His disciples need to imitate Him in His attitude as well. So we must learn to be more loving and show concern for others, and be more forgiving and soft-hearted, becoming more trusting and less judgmental. The more Christlike we become, the closer to God we will be.
Just like the younger son strayed and returned back to God, God is inviting us all today to return back to Him. It is never too late and no sin is big enough to hold us back if we desire to come back. As sinners, returning back to God is always an act of God’s grace. He always opens His arms like the father in the parable, waiting for the penitent sinner to come back to Him. Through His Son, God has reconciled us to Himself by granting us mercy through the sacrament of reconciliation. How God waits for us at the confessional…the more reason while we are called to this sacrament especially in this season of mercy, but how many of us make use of it? We cannot truly rejoice yet and God does not rejoice when we are in sin. It is our repentance that is a feast for rejoicing. Whatever your sins might have been, your past, what shameful things you have done and you are not proud of, God is calling all of us to that repentance, but we must take the bold step to abandon those our old sinful ways to come back to Him today, and He is ever ready and willing to accept us and rejoice over us as His beloved adopted sons and daughters. May He touch everyone of us today to abandon our past sinful ways and return to His loving embrace. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

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