Mass for the 4th Sunday of Lent

ON SUNDAY, 10TH MARCH, 2013, AT 11.00 A.M. (Fourth Sunday of Lent)

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The Russian author, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, was so impressed with this Gospel story of the Prodigal Son that he had his wife read the story to their children as he lay near death.  With eyes closed he listened, intent on the vision he held in his mind and when the reading was completed Dostoyevsky said in a feeble voice:  “My children, never forget what you have just heard.  Have absolute faith in God and never despair of his pardon.  I love you dearly, but my love is nothing compared with the love of God for those who are his creation.  Even if you should be so unhappy as to commit a crime in the course of your life, never despair of God.  You are God’s children.  Humble yourselves before God as before your father, implore God’s pardon and God will rejoice over your repentance as the father rejoiced over that of the prodigal son.”
Dear friends, when we say today that we are joyful in God’s Word, we really mean that Jesus has come to meet each of us who has turned our backs on him.  Sometimes we can be like the elder son.  We can even say; how can God pardon people like that?  After all I do a pretty good job, but that riff raff, those people with all those sins, oh, God should not pardon them!
And yet it is the absolutely limitless forgiveness of God that is the point of this story.  I think the parable of the prodigal son strikes a chord in our relationship with God and with Jesus because it is a personal story – one that makes us know that God is a merciful Father for each of us.  He loves us so much that he cannot endure the idea of losing us.  He is a God of tenderness and compassion, of infinite patience, who in order to be showing that he is welcoming brings back the prodigal son.  That is why we prayed in the Psalm:  “Taste and see the goodness of the Lord”, or the invitation that we sometimes shy away from, “I will rise and go to my Father and tell him:  Father I have sinned against heaven and against you.”  (Luke 15:8)
That is why this Lent I have asked that we should meditate on the Way of the Cross and on the Passion story more often than the once or twice we hear them in Holy Week, because it shows the lengths to which Jesus was prepared to go and the extent of his wonderful love.  It bears out what Saint Paul says in the second Reading:  “For anyone who is in Christ there is a new creation; the old creation has gone and now the new one is here.  It is all God’s work.”  (2 Cor 5:17)
God’s love for you and for me is so real, so transforming, that it is not just another Lent ho hum, but it is a personal meeting with him and a reaching out for his forgiveness.  Take the opportunity to go to individual Confession, know that God is forgiving you, know that newness of life is possible, know that he can give us the peace and joy promised in the prayer over the gifts, or fill our hearts with the light of his Gospel, as we say in the prayer after Communion.
Rather than limping forward for forgiveness our steps should be lighter and quicker because we can know a hope and a love beyond all measure.  The one who is waiting for us will welcome us, not with reproach, but with rejoicing because we have made our way back to love, to forgiveness, to life.
Our late loved Pope John Paul challenged us in one of his addresses when he said:  “Reconciliation is a word that must be part of the vocabulary of every believer, especially when barriers of hate and mistrust have been constructed.”
Let us think today whether our vision has been clouded by human sin and yet ‘amazing grace, how sweet the sound, I was blind, but now I see’.  Once accepted by God with forgiveness we continue, limping or leaping or running towards God, but never alone because we are part of a new creation.  How will we respond to a love that is stronger and more constant than sin?  How will you?  How will I?  The old has passed away, all things are new, but we must engage the limitless love of God.  That is our challenge this week.

+ Denis J. Hart,
Archbishop of Melbourne.
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