Detailed homily for the 4th Sunday of Lent Year C
Theme: THE JOY OF TRUE PENITENCE
By: Rev. Fr. Gerald Muoka_
Homily for Sunday March 27 2022
R1 – Josh 5:9, 10-12
R2 – 2Cor 5:17-21
GOSPEL – Luke 15:1-3, 11-32
In his memoirs, Mahatma Gandhi, the father of the Indian nation, humbly and frankly acknowledges that, when he was fifteen, he stole a little piece of gold from his brother. A few days later, he felt very guilty and decided to come clean by confessing to his father. So, he took a paper, wrote down his fault, sincerely asked his father for forgiveness and promised never to repeat the offence. Taking that note to the bedroom of his father, the young Gandhi found him ill in bed. Very timidly he handed the note to his father without saying a word. His father sat up in bed and began reading the note. As he read it, the father was so deeply moved by the honesty, sincerity and courage of his son that tears began to stream from his eyes. This so touched the son that he burst into tears as well. Instinctively both father and son wrapped their arms around each other and wordlessly shared their mutual admiration and joy. This notable experience made such an impact on Gandhi that years later he would say, “Only the person who has experienced this kind of forgiving love can know what it is.”
Beloved in Christ, today is the fourth Sunday of Lent; traditionally called _Laetare_ Sunday (Rejoice Sunday). On every fourth Sunday of Lent, the Mother CHurch invites us to anticipate the Easter joy. The Easter joy is the joy that precedes a journey of repentance and reconciliation with God through abandonment of old bad habits, confession of our sins and by celebrating our coming home as the repentant prodigal son, to our loving and forgiving God.
In the first reading, we see the Chosen People of God in a celebrative mood for the very first time in their land observing the feast of their freedom, by using wheat that had grown in the Promised Land.
St. Paul in the second reading, invites the Corinthian Christian community to rejoice because Jesus has reconciled them with God by his suffering and death.
In the Gospel reading, we witness the joy of the prodigal son on his “homecoming,” having discovered his father’s forgiving and overflowing love by a rethink. The same kind of joy awaits us whenever we turn back to God, where our soul finds rest.
However, Jesus through this story, outlines the three aspects or dimensions of repentance , by presenting three characters in this parable: (1) the repentant younger son (2) the forgiving father and (3) the self-justifying elder son.
*THE LENTEN JOY*
Lent is a season so many Christians do not welcome with much enthusiasm, probably because of the strict religious observances viz, fasting, praying, abstinence and Friday Stations of the Cross that accompany Lent that accompany it. One can relatively say that some of us are Lent-phobic.
But traditionally, Lent is a season that should leave us with joyful dispositions and countenance, because, etymologically, the English word ‘Lent,’ is a shortened form of the Old English word ” _lencten_ ” and Latin ” _Lentire_ ” meaning “spring season.”
Spring (springtime), is one of the four temperate seasons, succeeding winter and preceding summer.
Spring “springtime,” refer to the season of rebirth, rejuvenation, renewal, resurrection and regrowth.
However, prior to spring time, is the Winter Season (what we can liken as Dry season in Nigerian setting) which is characterized by the following:
(i) The cold and freezing climatic conditions make the temperature to become very harsh for plants and animals to adapt (This practically represents the moment of temptation in our Christian life, when the going gets tough and harsh).
(ii) This results in the deadening of plants, thereby, causing lack of vitality in the plants and trees. The beautiful green flowers and economic trees shed off their leaves and pollens (This is when the moral conscience is deadened and disfigured by sin, then we share off our Christian values and principles).
(iii) Most plants and trees become less fruitful and productivity is stiffled (At this stage, the child of God, stops bearing fruits of the kingdom, viz: Hope, Faith and Love).
(iv) Some animals migrate and depart their natural habitats in search of greener pastures (When we walk away from God, seeking solutions and consolations outside God).
Nevertheless, at Springtime, (lenten season when God invites us to return home like the prodigal son. Imagine the kind of joy that radiates at the homecoming of the lost son and his reunion with the family. So, during the ‘lentire’ season, little springs of water rain upon the earth, softens the soil again, making the atmospheric and climatic space warmth and conducive again for plants and animals.
At this point, the plants and trees that had shed their leaves begin to recover them again, thereby, enabling the flowers to bud and blossom with ‘green-ness’ and bearing fruits again. Finally all the animals that had migrated in search of warmth and greener pastures will begin to come home to their natural habitats. What a great season joy
Contextually, at Lent, God invites to undertake a forty day journey of returning home like the prodigal son. Christ who is the living spring softens our deadened hearts and conscience, which enables us to begin to bear fruits of the kingdom and at this point, we Christians are expected to begin to trace our steps back home, like the strayed prodigal son and animals who migrate during winter for warmth and greener pastures, back to our places of habitat, in the Lord where our souls find rest (Ps 42:1).
Nevertheless, the parable of the prodigal son which some call, “The greatest short story in the world” or “The parable of the prodigal father” is simply a typification of “LENT” — when God awaits our homecoming in a celebrative and joyful mood by showing us how generous, excessive and extravagant He could be with his love. Little wonder Jesus did say, “I tell you, there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner repenting than over ninety-nine upright people who have no need of repentance” (Lk 15:7).
(1) *LENT IS A SEASON OF HOMECOMING (Rethink).*
Lent is a time to return home from a world of sin to a world of reconciliation. The process of this homecoming implores us to shade off old habits like drug and alcohol abuse, fraud and theft in the workplace, murders, abortions and violence, premarital sex, marital infidelity, infidelity to vows and vocations, as well as in hostility among and between people.
(2) *EVERYONE OF US SHARES SOME ELEMENTS OF THE SON’S PRODIGALITY*
The scripture reminds us that we are have all sinned and gone short of God’s glory (ROM 3:23), and If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us (1Jn 1:10), because even the righteous man falls seven times in a. day (Prov. 24:16).
So, we need to accept the fact that we are all prodigal children who have squandered our inheritance from our Father without behaving like the self righteous eldest son in the parable.
(3) *NEVER ALLOW THE JOY OF LENT ELUDE YOU*
The season of spring (Lentire) emits joy and hope to plants and animals as we see in it’s geographical analysis. That same joy and hope should be given a prime place the the heart of every Christian. This can be achieved by adopting the “think home” or journeying back home” mindset via saying no to a particular ill in our lives this Lenten season. That is what repentance means.
Finally, a certain lawyer once confronted a priest after a beautiful sermon on the parable of the prodigal son. The lawyer said, “I really dodn’t understand this, frankly Fr.” The preacher asked, “What is it you don’t you don’t understand?” He said, “Forgiving that boy was a total violation of moral responsibility. What a prodigal father either.” The priest asked, “Well, what would you have done?” The lawyer said, “I think when he came home he should’ve been beaten up mercilessly and arrested.” The priest thought the man was going to tell him a joke. But he was really serious. The priest asked the man, “What would you have given the prodigal as his punishment?” The man said, “21 years imprisonment.”
Beloved, The lawyer was probably, acting like a deputy Jesus. He wanted the same strict standards that apply to the civil society and to the law to apply to relationships within the family, as well as to our relationship with God. Ours is a God who does not just condemns us in his justice, rather he goes on to redeem us in His mercy. And when he forgives, he doesn’t remember any more (Heb 8:12).
MAY THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT GRANT US A FIRM RESOLVE TO RETURN HOME IN TOTAL REGRETS AND REPENTANCE FROM OUR SINS. AMEN!
*GOD BLESS YOU!*
*HAPPY LAETARE SUNDAY!*
_FR GERALD MUOKA_