Browsing Homilies

Fourth Sunday of Lent (Laetare Sunday)

Jos 5:9a, 10-12 | Ps 34 | 2 Cor 5:17-21 | Lk 15:1-3, 11-32

“Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.”

Have you ever noticed how often God uses our senses to invite us into an awareness of divine presence? How often the Scriptures tell us that God sets a banquet to appeal to our taste and smell, or that Jesus invites us to see with our own eyes, to hear with our own ears?

Today, the book of Joshua reminds us that when God’s people settled in the Promised Land, they had no need of manna. They could taste the flavors of their own crops. Today, the psalmist invites us to taste and see God’s goodness, to let praise be the flavor in our mouths. Today, Jesus tells us of a father who welcomes home a son, touching him with mercy and setting a feast full of aroma and flavor, a celebration filled with music and dancing for all to hear. Today, we also are invited to taste and see and hear: to hear the rich offering of God’s Word and to see with our mind’s eye a family touched by division and selfishness and then healed by mercy and joy. We are invited to see the elements of bread and wine, to consume the Body and Blood of Christ, to hear in our “Amens” a community shaped by a lifetime of discovering God’s goodness.

The story of the father and his two sons is familiar to most of us. In fact, it’s probably familiar even to those unfamiliar with the Bible. It captures our imagination because we can see ourselves in these characters. We can imagine ourselves as the younger son who selfishly wanted his share of his father’s estate but didn’t want to work for it or wait for it. We can imagine ourselves as the older son who is true to his family commitment and faithfully works alongside his father. We might even be able to imagine ourselves as the father who may feel betrayed by one son and beholden to the other, and who is faithful in the best way to both of them.

Traditionally, this story is referred to as the parable of the Prodigal Son. The word “prodigal” means “wastefully extravagant” or “lavishly wasteful.” It’s true that the younger son is wasteful. He wastes his share of an inheritance he has not yet earned, and he wastes precious time in regret and misery.

But the older son, too, is wasteful. He wastes his energy on jealousy and anger, on resentment toward the father’s celebration of his brother’s return. Both brothers are prodigal, or wasteful, in ways that can damage their bonds to each other and in ways that can damage their own sense of self.

But the biggest surprise is that the father acts in a way that is prodigal as well, turning the meaning of lavish wastefulness on its head. He is lavish in his mercy and forgiveness, excessive in his celebration of a son who returns home, extravagant in ignoring the shame brought by the younger brother, who has damaged the family name, and the shame brought by the older brother, who publicly refuses to honor his father’s wishes to celebrate.

When Jesus tells this story, he’s really inviting us to step into the shoes of the father, into the shoes of his Father God. He is inviting the scribes and Pharisees of his time, and he is inviting us. We are being challenged to be prodigal in the best way—to see sin through the eyes of mercy, to hear pridefulness with ears of compassion, and to set a banquet where the aromas draw others in to celebrate God’s mercy and goodness.

In the words of Paul from our second reading today, we are “given the ministry of reconciliation,” knowing it’s simply never possible to be too lavish when it comes to God’s love.


RSS Feed


Access all blogs

Subscribe to all of our blogs