What is God telling us this fourth week of Lent this year? He may very well be reminding us, His adopted sons and daughters, that this Sunday is the midway point of the Lenten journey. This is the time to rejoice that the Lord has provided for his people, Israel, for centuries during their times of famine, slavery, wandering, which was to penitentially prepare them for their entrance into the Promised Land. What Joshua did for the Old Covenant Israelites, Jesus is doing for the New Covenant Israelites for the New Promise – Himself. However, Jesus had to challenge certain Jewish leaders of their perceptions about living in a new Covenantal relationship. Jesus is challenging all of us today, chosen, adopted sons and daughters of the Father to live up to the New Covenant given us in Baptism and Confirmation merited on the Cross of Christ.
In the first reading from the Book of Joshua, the Lord said “today I removed the reproach of Egypt from you.” This is a form of forgiveness and reconciliation. The loving and compassionate Father had to do this in order for them to be purified and “worthy” to enter the Promised Land. If He did not do this for them, them could not enter into His Presence or have any part of Him. The same reason Jesus washed the feet of the Apostles and instructed Peter in this very fact. It is not by the Israelites merit, but by God’s gracious, merciful gift to them. They didn’t have the right to enter – it was a gift. It is the same with the Holy Eucharist. Do we approach the Most Holy Eucharist with an “entitled attitude” or a grateful, thankful, humble, contrite heart?
The Responsorial Psalm 34 is reminding us to “taste and see the goodness of the Lord.” The only way we can “look at Him that you may be radiant with joy and your faces not blush with shame,” is if we come to know that we are not the sum of our sins and that God has always loved us unconditionally. If we don’t allow God to forgive us, love us, and heal us, we don’t know God and will never have a true God-centered healthy understanding of ourselves. St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body teaches this beautifully. Who is God truly? Not who do I feel God is or who is God to me? NO! Who is the Father that Jesus actually revealed to the world through Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition and His Church?
St. Paul reminds us that the Father has “reconciled the world to Himself,” these are some of the words in the formula of absolution you should all be familiar with from going to frequent confession, especially during the season of Lent. He also reminds us to be “ambassadors for Christ” which he is imploring us to be reconciled to God with humility. God desires a “humble and contrite heart.” Isn’t it wonderful that God doesn’t demand earthly perfection, even though some people we know demand this of us?
The parable we hear in the Gospel of St. Luke is one of the most memorable and popular in Sacred Scripture. It is the parable of the Prodigal Son. However, hearing and reading the passage many times, the extravagant, lavishly loving and forgiving father of two sons, still strikes me profoundly. It is how he treats them, and how he regards them individually and uniquely, that is still so beautifully striking and wise. The father respects their decisions and is accommodating to their choices, even if he doesn’t agree with them. The father invites and even pleads with them, but he always respects their free will. God, the Father, certainly does this with us; however, He wants to bestow His love and grace on us lavishly and abundantly. He can’t do this if we continue to live a life that consists of bad, sinful choices, unless we turn back to Him with humble repentance and conversion. We are not earning His love as such, He bestows it freely, but are we capable, willing and prepared to receive it, as He wants to bestow it? Do we truly allow Him to be God and Father and us creature and child? After all, it is the true, humble and honest order of Creation. Then, like the Jews, He can remove our reproach.
You may ask what that means for me, individually and communally. How do I regard people who are different than me? Do I shun or label them? How is my relationship with my parents and siblings? Did I notice how the father dealt with each son? How willing am I to plead with someone over some moral or spiritual issue that affects them personally or communally? The father witnesses this to his sons. Do we have that self-giving and self-sacrificing love towards our brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus? So, at this midpoint of Lent and during this Jubilee Year of Mercy, could we imitate Our Father in His extravagant ways of loving and forgiving others of the household of faith?
Fr. John A. Ederer is a retired Catholic priest of the Roman Diocese of Saginaw, MI. He assists at various parishes in the Diocese and two nursing facilities. For over thirty years he serves in the Ruthentian Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Parma, Ohio as well as helping out in several parishes. He was ordained on May 22, 1977 and retired due to health issues in 2006. He is the Spiritual Advisor for the All Michigan Charistmatic Conference service team respresenting the Seven Roman Catholic Dioceses of Michigan and help out with Mass at the State of Michigan Correctionary Facility. Father John has attended a number of Theology of the Body courses and the In the Person of Christ retreats at the Theology of the Body Institute.