Sunday, March 6, 2016

4th Sunday of Lent: God's Mercy

Today's readings are on how God cares for us, feeds us and is merciful.

In the first reading we are told of how God fed his people with the manna from heaven; this bread of heaven and bread of the angels (Psalm 78:25).  God does not abandon His people (Deuteronomy 31:6, Hebrews 13:15). He gave them to eat even when they did not deserve it. They complained of the harsh conditions of living in the desert and were very stubborn (Numbers 20:13). Despite this, God was there for them and met their needs. This reading should remind us to "taste and see the goodness of the Lord" as we shall read in today's responsorial Psalm.

We must bless and thank the Lord always.  It is because of God that we exist (Acts 17:28). Our being, our self exists because He wills it (Psalm 139:13).  God gives us what we need, not what we want. In response, we should thank Him not simply with words, but with actions by repeating and sharing His love with others.  We must look to God.  It is in God that we find joy; a joy that never ends (Nehemiah 8:10).  God provides always. We must trust in Him and be that new creation as the second reading tells us.

We are a new creation in Jesus Christ.  The things of old have passed away so we should not be repeating our sinful lifestyles of the past (Matthew 9:17). We must be a new people. Like the Hebrews in the first reading, we passed the Red Sea of Baptism, are now in the desert of Lent (1 Corinthians 10:2).  Though we may go through hardships, we must not look back at the 'Egypt" of our lives which had us imprisoned in slavery (Zephaniah 1:6, Hebrews 3:7-19). Rather, we must look to the promised land which is heaven itself with God, the angels, our Lady and the saints (John 14:23). The reading tells us of the ministry of reconciliation.  In this year of Mercy, I cannot stress enough the need to go to confession and get the grace of absolution.   We must make use of the Sacrament of Reconciliation which comes from God and was given to the priests and bishops of our Catholic Church (James 5:16).  We must reconcile with God.  Christ became 'sin' without sinning just to make us right with God.  God is always merciful and waits for us as we read in the Gospel with the Parable of the Prodigal Son.

In the Gospel, we see the Pharisees and scribes complain about Jesus because He was eating with sinners. Their arrogance and sanctimonious attitude was not representative of the Jewish faith.  Similarly, we see some so-called 'traditionalist' Catholics who behave in similar ways.  They attack the Pope today for reaching out to the pariahs of society. To them, it is not 'dignified' for a Roman Pontiff to do these things. When the rite of the washing of feet was updated, many of them had a fit. It is just ridiculous, in my opinion. Jesus I am sure felt the same and it why He resorted to a parable to explain to them their evil and selfishness.  He tells them of a man who had two sons, a young and an older one. The father gave them their share and the younger one immediately leaves and spends it on parties and friends.  When the money runs out, those friends who he thought were loyal abandoned him.  The young man ended up working for a local citizen and saw that the swine had better food that he did.  He reflected on how his life hit rock bottom and returned to see his father with the idea in mind that he would no longer be his son but just a hired worker. However, when his father saw him.  His father ran to embrace him and kissed him.  He immediately asks his servants to dress his son with the finest robe, put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.  Moreover, he orders the fattest calf be slaughtered so they could have a feast.  The older brother sees all this and gets upset saying that the younger brother was an ingrate and selfish; he deserved nothing of what the father was doing.  However, the father replied that this son was dead and is now alive; been lost and now found so he must celebrate.  The father reminds the older son that all he has is his as well and that he should not be sad but should celebrate that his brother returned.

This parable is one that has so much wisdom in it that it could only come from God. The young man represents the sinners Jesus hung out with while the older brother represented the Pharisees and scribes.  God is merciful.  Notice how the father when he sees the son does not even ask, "where have you been!?"  He does not even care.  All he was concerned about was embracing the son and bringing him back to the life he had before he wandered off.  This is how God is. God just cares for humanity to come back (Leviticus 26:12).  That is all that matters.  In this year of Mercy, we should meditate on this Gospel and remind ourselves how endless is God's mercy. There is no sin that God will not forgive unless it is the sin against the Holy Spirit which is the sin of not wanting forgiveness and mercy (Mark 3:29).  Moreover, we must not be like the older brother who felt the father was being unfair. We must see that when someone returns, it is good news.  Human beings make mistakes.  God will not hold that against them.  What matters is that the human repents and comes back (Matthew 18:12-14, Luke 15:7).  Like the father in the parable, God will not even ask where you have been.  He will bring you home and celebrate.  Let us pray for God's Divine Mercy, trust in God, be the new creation that baptism has made us and realize that God loves us so much.


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