Conversion through Fellowship with Jesus
The Fourth Sunday of Lent is traditionally called “Laetare Sunday”. Laetare is a Latin word that means “rejoice.” Today’s Gospel describes the reason for our joy: God’s great love for us has been revealed in Jesus. Through his Passion, Death, and Resurrection, Christ has reconciled us with God and one another. In today’s Gospel Jesus tells the story of the Prodigal Son which is unique to the Gospel of Luke. The younger son takes his inheritance and leaves home. The older son remains, continuing to provide for the father and the household. Having been disgraced by the younger son, the father spends some time watching the road for the return of the lost son. When he eventually sees his wayward son returning, the father not only welcomes him but also runs out to greet him and then honours him with a party. We find no surprise in the anger of the older son. Yet the father appears sad and even confused by the older son’s indignation. He says in reply that they should celebrate because the lost son had returned. The father is filled with gratitude and love for the older son’s faithfulness. This love is in no way diminished by the father’s rejoicing at the return of the younger son. Yet the older son’s jealousy reveals his limited understanding of the depth of his father’s love.
It could be said that there are two important journeys in the great parable of the Prodigal Son. One is that of the younger brother who realises the foolishness of his ways and turns towards home not sure what to expect and certainly not expecting what he finds there. The other journey is, at least in distance, much shorter. It is that of the older brother who remains out in the fields unable to make the brief trip home because of his rage and anger. In Lent the focus is usually on the long return home but it might well be that for many of us the real challenge is to recognise in ourselves the desire to limit God’s mercy to those we consider worthy. Such a mind-set may still keep us away from our true home with the Father. Jesus invites us to consider the depth of God’s mercy and love. Jesus reaches out to sinners inviting them to conversion through fellowship with him. Jesus is God acting among us; by befriending us, he is inviting us to return to friendship with God.