Homily for the 4th Sunday of Lent Year C
Theme: A call to conversion and penance
By: Fr. Jude Chijioke
Homily for Sunday March 27 2022
Readings: Joshua 5, 9.10-12; 2 Corinthians 5: 17-21; Luke 15: 1-3.11-32
This Sunday liturgy is a call to conversion and penance, a certainty that man is not alone even when he isolates and distances himself from God. Divine love and mercy ignore vengeance and overcomes rigid justice. A Polish mystic, Sister Faustina Kowalska testifies that “even if our sins were as black as the night, divine mercy is stronger than our misery. Only one thing is needed, that a sinner at least opens a little, the door of his own heart, the rest will be done by God. Everything begins in His Mercy and ends in His Mercy.”
Following our gospel text, Lk 15, before Christ there are two categories of persons. Those who listen and those who murmur. Tax collectors and sinners belong to the first category: people who have bad reputation, who are hurt, who can’t just live a good life. The second category are the scribes and Pharisees, or champions of religious life and good reputation among men, people who always have a word in everything. Our evangelist noted that the first kept approaching Jesus but did not talk about the latter because the Bible repeatedly states that murmuring distances us from God. Last Sunday, we were reminded that a large portion of the Chosen People fell into the wilderness due to constant murmuring.
Today, Jesus directs his teaching precisely to all those who fall into the second category. It is the parable of a father’s prodigal love. The goodness of the father is the luminous painting of the face of God, as Jesus revealed it: a God of love and mercy, who welcomes a repentant sinner, bringing him back to the fullness of his dignity.
The first category is well represented by the younger son in the parable. Stories of those who, running after the illusions of this world, find themselves disappointed and impoverished by their choices. People who, touching the depths of the evil in which they are entangled, deeply feel a mysterious nostalgia that pushes them to remember what they had received (Lk 15: 14-17). The son in recognizing that he had made a mistake, no longer feeling worthy of being called “son”, proposes a request to be made to his father not to be treated as such (Lk 15: 18-19). But here is the surprising discovery, even before the boy utters these words. Upon seeing him come back, the father explodes in an absolute joy, running towards him like a young man and covering him with hugs and kisses (Lk 15:20). God awaits us who have wandered like lost sheep, and he is the central character, the true protagonist of the parable who reveals himself more and more as the story of a love that is never cracked nor extinguished.
The second category is equally well represented by the eldest son. People who are very faithful to their duties, so faithful that their very life comes to identify with their duty. And, like all those who interpret life as a duty, sensitivity to celebration and joy is lost. The son asks one of the servants for a reason for the music and dances and then, came “the sin of the righteous”: he was indignant and did not want to enter the house (Lk 15: 26-28a). That is, on the doorstep, he felt a profound rejection of the surprise scene that presented itself to his ears and not yet to his eyes. Here we see the most intimate intent of the parable told by Jesus. To reach at all costs those who are close to him only apparently because their hearts are far from him, “His father then went out to beg him” (Lk 15:28b).
The features of the father’s face, the true protagonist of the parable, are better delineated. A father who initially seems to have problems with only one of the children, and who in the end seems to have problems with both. He manifests himself to the younger son with a love that cannot be humanly explained, which we could summarize as follows: “son, you offended me and abandoned me, but I do not give up with you, I still love you”. Then he manifests himself to the eldest with incredible humility, he appeals not to his reason, but to his heart: son, you are always with me and all that is mine is yours; but it was necessary to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and came back to life, he was lost and now found (Lk 15: 31-32). Here there are no arguments, there is only a declaration of a necessity, understandable only to those who are willing to go beyond their own justice, that is, beyond their personal image of God. God is much more than any law: Deus misericordia est! God is Mercy!
Fr. Jude Chijioke