Sunday Sermon for March 10, 2013, the Fourth Sunday of Lent, Year C
Readings: Jos 5:9a, 10-12; 2Cor 5:17-21; Lk 15:1-3, 11-32
In the first line of the first reading today the Lord says to Joshua: “Today I have removed the reproach of Egypt from you.” When we consider what the concept of “Egypt” meant to the Israelite people, we can apply this same statement to ourselves. We have been slaves to sin, we have wandered spiritually in a land that is not our own, we have been surrounded by and, so some degree, affected by the rampant evil that permeates our society.
If we consider the traditional idea that the three sources of temptation are the world, the flesh and the devil, most of us would have to admit to not only being tempted, but immersing ourselves into the apparent good that these three con artists offer us. This is the reproach if Egypt in our lives. It would be easy to despair when we consider the gravity and the number of our sins. However, St. Paul, in the second reading, tells us that those who preach the Gospel are like ambassadors for Christ with God Himself appealing through them that we be reconciled to Him in Christ.
So often we are afraid to approach the ministers of reconciliation, that is, the priest in the confessional in order to be reconciled with the Lord. Whatever the reason for our fear, we need only to look at the Gospel reading for today to understand how God is looking at the situation. He is not lying in wait to knock us down; He is not wanting to get even; He is not going to exact a “pound of flesh” for the evil we have done. No, in the Gospel we see that the father has a banquet because is son is back.
We recall that this is the son who squandered the father’s property, as even the older son reminds the father. The father would certainly be within his rights to tell the young man to turn around and leave; instead, he runs out to meet his son and, embracing him, rejoices that he is back. This is the disposition of our Heavenly Father toward us. We have fallen into the most unfortunate of sins, but the person, not the sins is the focus of our Father.
The son in the Gospel reading falls into the most depraved situation a Jewish person can imagine: caring for pigs and wanting what they eat. Forget about the animals for the moment and substitute whatever you have done and with whomever you have done such things. Our Lord says of the wayward son that he came to his senses and returned to his father. This same must be applied to us in our waywardness. The only sensible thing to do is to return to God Who can forgive us and heal us.
Once we are reconciled with the Lord, a banquet awaits us that will bring great rejoicing to the Angels in Heaven. With our sins forgiven, we are able to receive Jesus again in the Blessed Sacrament. This is the fruit of the Promised Land. It is interesting to note in the first reading that for forty years as the people wandered in the desert in their sin and disobedience, God still took care of them and gave them manna. Having been purified, they entered into and ate the produce of the Promised Land; the manna ceased from that day.
When we look back on our sinfulness, we all know what we truly deserve. God would have been just if He had destroyed us with a lightning bolt and condemned us for eternity. Instead, in His love and mercy He not only kept us alive, but cared for us, provided for us and gave us the grace to come back to our senses and return to Him. If we thought about it for a bit we could probably recount some pretty miraculous things He did for us when we were doing nothing for Him.
Our loving Father seeks us, runs to meet us when we turn to Him, and embraces us with love and rejoicing. He has truly removed the reproach of our foolishness from us by taking our sins onto Himself. In turn, He offers us the grace to be reconciled, but even to become, as St. Paul says, the very righteousness of God. In other words, He has restored us to His family by clothing us in the finest robe. Now the Lord has provided the Heavenly Banquet for us.
With the reproach of the spiritual Egypt removed from us, we need to be grateful to the Lord for taking care us of in our wanderings, but now we need to accept our reconciliation with Him and feast on the Banquet of the Eucharist with our Father and the Angels rejoicing in and for us.
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.