Scripture Commentary for 4th Sunday of Lent (Laetare Sunday)

Let us pray:

O God,

Thank you for reckless and excessive love.

Just yesterday in the desert, manna and water were spilling out of control.

Today we have heaps of grain, goodness and love,

calming our day-to-day life.

As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be,

you give us Your Son.

Help us lavish love like yours, without heed, upon each other.

Amen

1st Reading — Joshua 5: 9-12:

The Israelites have finally arrived to the Promised Land.  The manna has ended, they are eating from the produce of the land, and they are celebrating Passover.  The feast of Passover recalls the last plague visited on Egypt, the plague that resulted in the Israelites escape.  A terrible illness killed the first born of the Egyptians, but the angel of death “passed over” the homes of the Israelites.  This story is not just about the end of an era but God’s faithfulness to God’s promises  (Workbook for Lectors, p. 84). How does this reading prepare us for the Gospel?

The road to joy winds through some pretty unlikely places. Here in this reading, the Hebrews stop to celebrate Passover. But if you go to the beginning of the chapter you will see that “the reproach of Egypt” that has been removed is the reinstating of circumcision. It seems that such a practice has been stopped during the 40 years in the desert. This ‘rite’ might have made them too vulnerable to attack during this traveling time – but now as they ready to enter the Promised Land Joshua insists that all the males obey this sign of the  covenant. Perhaps the extra wine of celebration would help ease the pain of such a rite! (From “Exploring the Sunday Readings”, March 2010)

 

Manna is considered a type of Eucharist.  This reading tells us that the manna ceased when the 1st Passover was celebrated in the Promised Land.  So too, the Eucharist will cease when it finds its fulfillment in the messianic banquet of the kingdom of God  (liurgy.slu.edu, March 14, 2010).

 

2nd Reading: 2 Corinthians 5: 17-21

It was the tax collectors and sinners that drew near to Jesus.   Think about how hard that might have been for them to draw near.  Especially with the Pharisees right there, judging them.  What would you do?

 

We are called to be “ambassadors for Christ”. What do you make of this?

How can we be the righteousness of God?   The word ambassador in Greek is presbeutes. It was a person that was directly commissioned by a king or ruler.  Paul is using it here to help us understand that we are commissioned to bring God’s terms of mercy and love to sinners so that they can be welcomed into the family of God. (Preaching Resources, March 2004)

 

Paul’s comments fit so well with the Gospel story. As new creations in Christ we are to offer to others the same love and forgiveness that has been offered to us. Selfishness and self-righteous attitudes do not lead to joy, to celebration. Such a lonely road leads to isolation and misery.  (From “Exploring the Sunday Readings”, March 2010)

 

But being a new creation is not an assured possession!  It is something that must constantly be worked at.  To renew that status is the work of the apostolic ministry – the “ministry of reconciliation,” as Paul calls it  (liturgy.slu.edu, March 14, 2010)

 

The Gospel — Luke 15: 1-3, 11-32

This is one of Jesus’ most powerful and best known parables.  With which character do you identify?

 

From Living Liturgy, 2004:

This parable reveals the dying and rising of the paschal mystery at work. The prodigal son is brought to repentance because he is in dire need; he is “dying from hunger.” There is nothing he does to deserve the father’s response except return. Yet, his decision to repent (turn from death) is met with warm, welcoming love and feasting – at least from the father. For all of us, the invitation to repent is always there – to turn from dying-ways to new life and feasting. What can bring us – and the elder son – to the feasting?

 

Notice also, that sin is ‘going away to a distant land’ – it is about losing who and where we are called to be. Repentance is about ‘coming back to our senses.’ Sin is an alienation from ourselves, like the son who no longer deserves to be called his father’s son.  Sin affects our relationships – with the father – and with others (the elder son). In the father, we find a love that bridges the gap.

 

From John Pilch, “Historical Cultural Context”, http://liturgy.slu.edu :

In this culture fathers were greatly discouraged from distributing inheritance before their death. The younger son acts very shamefully by effectively wishing his father dead. The elder son is no better. He makes no effort to reconcile his father and brother as the culture demanded. When he ‘comes back to himself’ and repents, the younger son is willing to become a servant and take the rejection and physical abuse that the village will heap on him for his shameful behavior. In this, he does show some measure of honor. But then, the father acts totally out of cultural character. He runs (very inappropriate for an elder).  He publicly forgives the son by kissing him, giving him the best robe (which certainly would be the father’s), putting a ring on his finger (a sign of trust), and sandals on his feet (a sign of a free man not a slave). Killing the fatted calf means that the whole village will be invited to come and accept this son and celebrate. (This size calf could feed 100 people.) And then, what does the elder son do? Instead of honoring his father’s wishes, he publicly insults and humiliates his father. Yet, the father also goes out to him (another shameful thing for the father to do). The parable ends here with the father pleading with his son . . .what did the elder son do? What would you do?

 

The father – God – doesn’t act the way we think he’s going to act.  We can never put God in a box!  There is nothing we can do that would get God to stop loving us!

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2 responses

  1. Wonderful. thanks!

  2. This is great, it will be on my heart all week long! Thank you.

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