Fourth Sunday of Lent
Joshua 5:9a, 10-12 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 Luke 15:1-3, 11-32
As we leave winter behind and enter into the home stretch of our Lenten journey we have good reason to celebrate. We know that with each new sunrise we will enjoy more warmth and daylight. We know also that Christ, our risen “Sun,” is bringing more and more warmth and light into the world with each new day. How better to celebrate than with a feast! The first reading, the psalm, and the Gospel all refer to feasts. Each of these feasts celebrates what the psalm calls “the goodness of the Lord” (Psalm 34:9).
The spring Passover festival in the reading from Joshua celebrates God’s gift of the land of Canaan to the Israelites. In the Gospel parable the father doesn’t give a thought to his prodigal son’s sins or to his own injured feelings. He proclaims, “Let us celebrate with a feast!” (Luke 15:23). He then leaves his own banquet to encourage his elder son to “celebrate and rejoice, because your brother was dead and has come to life again” (Luke 15:32).
All three of these feasts point to the one banquet that we will celebrate in the promised land of heaven, and that we anticipate in the Eucharistic banquet. At the Eucharist we celebrate the infinite forgiveness and love God has shown us in Christ. However, we are not simply to relax at the table and drink in our own forgiveness. St. Paul reminds us that God has “given us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18).
Like the brothers in the parable, God’s generosity to us should open our hearts to forgive and ask forgiveness of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Like the father in the parable, we are to be “ambassadors for Christ,” extending “the message of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:19, 20) to all those who need Christ’s reconciling forgiveness. The heavenly banquet will not be complete until all people come to the feast and “taste and see the goodness of the Lord” (Psalm 34:9).