4th Sunday of Lent Year C
Theme of the week: Christ paid the price so that by our repentance, we may be reconciled to God and enter the our heavenly home.
The First Reading tells of the story of the Israelites finally reaching Canaan, the Promised Land. After years of toils (and sins), the Israelites were finally reconciled to God and entered the Promised Land. Upon their enjoyment of the first produce of the land, the manna from heaven that has sustained them through the years stopped. The Israelites’ journey through the desert has a deep symbolic meaning and relevance to our lives. The journey through the desert, with all its toils and human failings, represents our present lives on earth; and the Promised Land represents our heavenly home. In spite of our human failings, God is ever ready to forgive us. While we are on earth, God sustains us by the Eucharist, our spiritual manna from Heaven. Sustained by God and reconciled to Him, we hope that we may one day enter our heavenly home and taste its sweet produce.
Continuing on the theme of eternal salvation, the Second Reading presents a teaching on reconciliation and repentance. Just as the human race is condemned through the selfish act of one man (Adam); it is redeemed through one selfless act of another man (Jesus). To cleanse us of our sins, God sacrificed His Only Son. Though sinless himself, Christ paid for our sins so that we may be reconciled to God – “For our sake [God] made [Christ] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (verse 21).
The Gospel provides a fitting conclusion to this week’s message of reconciliation. The parable of the Prodigal Son tells the story of how the second son asked for his father’s inheritance before his time; wasted them away; before returning to the father and was reconciled to him. The epilogue of the story tells how the elder son becoming jealous of how his father treated his brother. In the story, the father represents God, the second son represents sinners, and the elder son represents the righteous ones. For the sake of brevity, lets us reflect on just a few key points:
- On his repentance, the second son said, “I have sinned against heaven and against you” (verse 18, 21), recognising the vertical and horizontal dimensions of sin – against God and against our brothers and sisters.
- Upon his repentance, the father restored the son’s dignity (robe, ring and sandal) and welcomed him into his house. All his past trespasses were fully forgiven; his previous status restored.
- On the other hand, the elder son found it difficult to forgive his brother, raising the question of fairness with the father. We must remind ourselves not to fall into this self-righteous trap (as the Pharisees did in Jesus’ time). As Jesus explained, “there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who need no repentance” (Luke 15:7).
- The father then invites the elder son into the house to join in the celebration. Just as it can be hard for sinners to repent, it can also be hard for the righteous one to have the grace to forgive. Only through true repentance and true forgiveness can we enter the house of heaven; and can truly be called sons and daughters of God.
Let us reflect on this story. Were there times in my life that I am called to repentence like the Prodigal Son? Were there times in the life I am called to forgiveness like the elder brother? This Lent, let us put aside all that leads us away from God and be reconciled to Him. Amen.