How’s everyone’s Lent going? Believe it or not, a few days ago, we passed the halfway mark. For many of us, passing the halfway point is really great news. Either because we’ve been doing pretty well during this Lenten season of deeper prayer, fasting, and giving to the poor; or we haven’t been doing so well. One way or another, we need a break and this Fourth Sunday of Lent is made to give us a great break. At times during our 2000+ years as a church, the penances given for certain sins could be, at times, really long and hard, so by the time the 4th Sunday of Lent came around, people who had been doing these long drawn out penances were really tired and needed a break. The church would give them a break and gives us a little break today.
This Sunday is traditionally called Laetare Sunday because we can see the light at the end of this Lenten tunnel and therefore, we rejoice! What Latare means is REJOICE! On this day, we are told we can ease up on our Lenten promises; just for today. This is because the great celebration of the Suffering, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus, Easter Sunday, is in three weeks. Next week is the Fifth Sunday of Lent, followed by Palm Sunday and the week after, Easter.
To get there, the Church gives us example after example of the great love God has for us. In our second reading today, Paul tells us the old order of things has gone away. With Jesus, we experience a new way of love and because it’s so boundless and beyond explaining, we have to live it and share God’s love. We do this because God loves us first. We hear it proclaimed in a new way today; the Gospel that has always been called the Gospel of the Prodigal Son should be called the Gospel of the tender loving Father.
We’ve heard this story all through our lives. I’d like to point out a couple of things we probably overlook every time we hear this story. First, the son who decides to come back because he’s starving to death already knows in his heart that his father will forgive him. Why? Because he has experienced the father’s love before or at least seen it. Like you and me, seeing and experiencing God’s gentle forgiveness, as we’ve never been apart.
The second thing I miss, maybe you do too, is how tender the Father’s love is for both his sons. Before the son can get out his rehearsed message, the Father runs out to greet his son, throws his arms around his son’s neck, and commands his servants slaughter the fattened lamb and get ready for a massive celebration. His son was lost and is now found; he was dead and now is alive.
We have a great opportunity to experience the Father’s love for us again, or for the first time. On April 1, we will have our parish Reconciliation Service which means there will be a lot of priests in this Church to hear our confessions. No matter how deep the sin is, we will experience the great and tender love the Father has for us. Come and see!
May you experience the Father’s love during this Lenten Season,