4th Sunday of Lent – Cycle C
Jos 5:9a,10-12, Psalm Ps 23: 1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6, 2 Cor 5:17-21, Gospel: Lk 15:1-3, 11-32
Rope – a tool for preaching
When I was about 12 years old one of my favorite toys was a 30’ piece of rope that we found in the woods near our house. We used that rope for everything! It was great for hauling wood to make forts, for swinging like Tarzan through the trees, and tieing up prisoners when we played cops and robbers.
This week I have discovered a new use for my favorite old toy – preaching homilies!
[[PULL OUT A SECTION OF ROPE]]
Prayer, Fasting and Alms-giving
For Lent, Father Dan asked all of us homilists to reflect on the Lenten Disciplines of Prayer, Fasting and Alms-giving and how they permeate our Catholic lives. I would like to reflect together with you about today's Gospel from the perspective of Alms-giving.
Why do we give Alms?
Have you ever wondered why Alms-giving is at the heart of our spiritual life? Why does it rate right up there with Prayer and Fasting? [[PAUSE]] The book of Genesis says that we are created in the image and likeness of God. This means that giving is at the heart of who we are created to be. We know this because when Christ came to earth he was completely self-giving. We become more fully human when we become more like-Christ; when we give selflessly for the benefit of others. This self-sacrifice is at the heart of Marriage, Religious and Family life. Relationships where we need to become self-giving help us to to grow in holiness.
Look at the Prodigal Son in terms of the relationships
This piece of rope that I have can be used to help us to think about what is going on in the parable today. Imagine that this piece of rope is the relationship between the Sons and their Father in the Gospel today. How do the Sons relate to their Father?
The Younger Son [[TIE THE FIRST KNOT]]
The younger son thinks that his Dad is just a bank – the Bank of Dad.
- He uses his Father to get some money.
- He says – Dad you might as well be dead, so fork over the dough – I gotta go!
- He then uses his Father’s money to use other people
- He throws outlandish parties
- He uses women for sex
- What is ironic, is that all of the people who come and enjoy his Father’s money are using him because he has money.
- As soon as the money dries up – they stop using him because he is no longer useful.
- His sin here is that he treats things as more important than people. He treats people as if they were things.
The Older Son [[TIE THE SECOND KNOT]]
The older Son shares the younger son’s outlook on people – they are to be used to get what you want. He simply goes about using them in a different way. While he obeys his Father, his heart is hardened. He does not see that his brother has come back to life – he says to his Dad “Your Son…” rather than “My Brother…” and he refuses to join the celebration because he is disgusted with how his brother has wasted the things – (the inheritance). It is this hardness of heart that keeps the older son from being open to reconciliation.
How are we like these two sons? [[TIE THE THIRD KNOT]]
Some of us here are like the younger son – we are trapped in dissolute living. We have tied our lives into knots of Sin – Alcohol, Drugs, Sex, Lies, Stealing. We value things rather than people. Others of us are more like the older son, we have been externally faithful to the Gospel while inside we are just getting our tickets punched, and our actions during the week do not agree with what we profess to believe here in the Church. We listen to the Gospel with our ears, but we do not allow it to penetrate our hearts.
The Father is the key to everything
It is in the Father of today’s Gospel where we find the key to freeing ourselves from these knots that we have made of our lives. If we think about what it means to be created in the image and likeness of God then we realize that this has huge implications in our lives.
- If we are created in God’s image and likeness then we will find that our lives are most happy and peaceful when we are living in a way that God has created us, designed us to live.
- This means that we are called to live in a love relationship with one another.
- We express this love in three ways
- We love God. When we come to Mass we have an opportunity to express our love for God when we share him in the Eucharist. Take a moment and converse with Him in your soul today when you receive Him.
- We love our families. God designed us to have families because families are the school of love. It is here that we learn to love our spouses, children and parents.
- We love our neighbors. When we recognize that we are all brothers and sisters in Christ, then we love our extended family.
- In order for us to live happy lives we need to learn how to love in all three of these areas of our lives.
Alms-giving – The Antidote to Selfishness!
The Father’s relationship with his Sons teaches us selfless love. He does not value his Sons as things, but as people. He practices selfless love, giving himself in relationship to care for their needs.
If we find that we are mired in sin, like either of these two sons, then there are two things that we can do about this.
1. Be like the younger son and recognize our Sin, confess and strive to live a more selfless life.
2. Practice Alms-giving as an anti-dote to selfishness. One of the ways the Church has done this for centuries is to practice the corporal works of mercy (love).
a. Clothe the Naked – Go though your closets and bring your extra clothes here. We run a clothing bank for the homeless.
b. Feed the Hungry – Go through your pantry and bring some extra food here. We also run a food bank for the hungry.
c. Educate the Ignorant – Speak with Tina and Marina and volunteer some time to help out our religious education program. If you are like me you will find that the more you teach, the more you learn!
d. Shelter the Homeless – Call Avalina and volunteer to help with our outreach to the poor in this community. Just visit with those in need.
e. Bury the Dead – Come to a funeral mass for one of our parishioners. Pray with their family, or visit with some of those who have lost loved ones this year.
f. Visit the Sick – We have an active ministry here of caring for the sick and elderly in our parish. Speak with me after Mass to visit the nursing homes.
Repent and receive God’s Mercy – so that you can be free to proclaim the Gospel
When we come to our senses, and recognize our sin, then we are ready to reconcile with God. This is what the younger son does. He recognizes that he is not happy, not fulfilled, and has made the biggest mistake of his life. When the Father see’s him coming a long way off, he has mercy, and rushes to embrace him. Why, because the Father is now rich in relationship. He does not count the cost of things, but he counts the cost of relationship. His Son who was dead to him in sin is now alive in truth!
God’s Sacrificial love – it unties our knots!
When we find that our lives are filled with knots of sin we too can come to our senses. The Good News of the Gospel is that we can go and be reconciled to the Father. He is waiting for us so that he can untie the knots that sin has made in our lives through the sacrificial love of his Son. [[UNTIE THE KNOTS]]