The Fourth Sunday of Lent
The parable of the Prodigal Son may be the most popular of Jesus’ parables, for it offers such consolation and encouragement for all of us. At one time or another, everyone experiences some moment of isolation, of being left out or cut off, when some moment of clarity leads to making amends and seeking reconciliation. We often sin because we lose sight of the impact of our actions on others… sin is basically putting ourselves and our own needs, wants, and pleasures ahead of everything and everyone else. The prodigal son only gradually came to realize the consequences of his actions, and even as he prepares to go home he seems more motivated by his own need for food and shelter. In his return, though, all we see is his father’s love that triumphs over his selfishness and his older brother’s jealousy. Rembrandt painted an image of the prodigal son’s return. All we see in that painting is the father’s expression of compassion as the son’s face is hidden in his father’s embrace. A print of that painting hangs in each of our reconciliation rooms as a reminder that the Father’s love and mercy are all that matter, and as we admit our sinfulness we need to focus only on the promise of forgiveness and let God do the rest.
You may notice that at certain masses last weekend, this weekend, and next weekend the scripture readings do not seem to match what is announced or printed in various mass guides. On the Third, Fourth, and Fifth Sundays of Lent when we pray the Scrutinies with the Elect– those preparing for Baptism at the Easter Vigil—we proclaim three powerful encounters of conversion from the Gospel of John (The Woman at Well, the Healing of the Man Born Blind, and the Raising of Lazarus) as we accompany those who are themselves in the midst of conversion. The use of these texts as part of the process of initiation goes back to the earliest centuries of the Church and continues today as part of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA).
As our Lenten journey progresses and we continue our works of prayer and devotion, our sacrifices, and our charity, we also hear the call to conversion in our own lives. Conversion means acknowledging our faults and failings in order to bring about change for the good. Over the next few weeks, we are providing many opportunities to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation. At our regularly scheduled times Saturday afternoons the next few weekends, both Fr. John and I will be available. The Archdiocesan Day of Reconciliation—with priests available for confession in every parish (schedules vary by parish)—is Monday, April 8. Here at St. Joseph, priests will be available in the church from 4 to 8 pm. Our Parish Day of Reconciliation will take place on Thursday, April 11 with priests available in the Church 9–11 am, 12–2 pm, 3–5 pm, and 7–9 pm. I encourage you to experience God’s mercy and healing as part of your Lenten preparation for Easter. If you have questions, or if it has been a while and you would like to chat about it, please call Fr. John or me at the Parish Office. We are both happy to help and offer the gift of God’s forgiveness and mercy.