Gospel Reflection Mar 27 – Deacon Frank
Sunday, March 27
Fourth Sunday of Lent
Luke 15: 1-3, 11-32
Tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to Jesus,
but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying,
“This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
So to them Jesus addressed this parable:
“A man had two sons, and the younger son said to his father,
‘Father give me the share of your estate that should come to me.’
So the father divided the property between them.
After a few days, the younger son collected all his belongings
and set off to a distant country
where he squandered his inheritance on a life of dissipation.
When he had freely spent everything,
a severe famine struck that country,
and he found himself in dire need.
So he hired himself out to one of the local citizens
who sent him to his farm to tend the swine.
And he longed to eat his fill of the pods on which the swine fed,
but nobody gave him any.
Coming to his senses he thought,
‘How many of my father’s hired workers
have more than enough food to eat,
but here am I, dying from hunger.
I shall get up and go to my father and I shall say to him,
“Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.
I no longer deserve to be called your son;
treat me as you would treat one of your hired workers.”’
So he got up and went back to his father.
While he was still a long way off,
his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion.
He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him.
His son said to him,
‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you;
I no longer deserve to be called your son.’
But his father ordered his servants,
‘Quickly bring the finest robe and put it on him;
put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.
Take the fattened calf and slaughter it.
Then let us celebrate with a feast,
because this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again;
he was lost, and has been found.’
Then the celebration began.
Now the older son had been out in the field
and, on his way back, as he neared the house,
he heard the sound of music and dancing.
He called one of the servants and asked what this might mean.
The servant said to him,
‘Your brother has returned
and your father has slaughtered the fattened calf
because he has him back safe and sound.’
He became angry,
and when he refused to enter the house,
his father came out and pleaded with him.
He said to his father in reply,
‘Look, all these years I served you
and not once did I disobey your orders;
yet you never gave me even a young goat to feast on with my friends.
But when your son returns
who swallowed up your property with prostitutes,
for him you slaughter the fattened calf.’
He said to him,
‘My son, you are here with me always;
everything I have is yours.
But now we must celebrate and rejoice,
because your brother was dead and has come to life again;
he was lost and has been found.’”
There has been much discussion recently regarding who should and who should not be allowed to receive Holy communion. This Sunday’s familiar gospel story of the prodigal son can help us address this complex and controversial issue. Specifically, the introduction to the story may be the most important part of the reading. Jesus told this parable because his critics were complaining, “…he welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
One son knew he was not worthy even to be called a son, let alone have a banquet held in his honor. He was willing to admit this – after a painful process. The other son thought himself worthy of a feast but disapproved of his father’s prodigal conduct – as well as the offenses of his wayward brother. We do not know if the righteous son changed his attitude, and eventually joined in the feast. Taking our cue from the introduction to the parable, we may assume that he stayed outside, condemning and griping.
No one is worthy to sit at a table and dine with the Son of God. We all declare this before we come forward to receive Holy Communion. “Lord I am not worthy to receive you.” We hope that we are reconciled to God as we approach.
On this halfway point of The Season of Lent – known as Laetare Sunday – may we always rejoice that Jesus never gives up on us even though we may give up on each other. Let us rejoice then that we can all say together, “Lord I am not worthy” and still participate in the banquet of the Lord. Let us rejoice in the new creation that Jesus is making this Lent: through the Sacraments of Initiation, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and his overflowing, prodigal grace.
Deacon Frank Iannarino