March 31, 2019
by Kyle Lierk
Creighton University's Campus Ministry
click here for photo and information about the writer

Fourth Sunday of Lent - Year C Readings
Lectionary: 242

Joshua 5:9A, 10-12
Psalms 34:2-3, 4-5, 6-7
2 Corinthians 5:17-21
Luke 15:1-3, 11-32

Year A Readings For Masses with the RCIA

Praying Lent Home


Understanding the Scrutinies

Weekly Guide for Daily Prayer

The Fourth Week of Lent - 31 min.
- Text Transcript

Growing up, my family often made the 400 mile drive from my hometown of Alliance in the Panhandle of rural Nebraska to the bustling “big city” of Omaha to visit my extended relatives for holidays and summer vacations.  I have vivid memories of turning onto the street my mother grew up on some seven hours after our journey began only to see my grandma and grandpa standing on their front porch watching for our arrival with bright eyes, warm smiles and excitedly waving hands of welcome.  As I got older and continued witnessing this phenomenon, I often wondered, “How long have they been standing there?!” or “How did they know when we would be turning onto their block?” I now understand that the how of this great act is much less important than the why...because they loved us deeply and could not wait for our return.

In today’s Gospel account commonly referred to as “the story of the prodigal son” Jesus paints a poignant picture of a God who, like the father in the story, is always watching and waiting for our return home.

In that story, there is not one, but two sons who encounter their father coming to them outside of the home.  For the first son, it is his greed and sense of entitlement that drive him to a distant land.  The irony is that in the midst of his lavish, extravagant lifestyle, he experiences famine and hunger.  In his distance from home, he comes to recognize, painfully, how empty his life has become. For the second son, though he technically never leaves the land of his family, it is his pride that keeps him outside the home, refusing to enter.  He is so invested in pointing out the misbehavior and misdeeds of his brother while he was away that he cannot bring himself to celebrate his return. The father comes in haste to these outerlands and meets his sons where they are stuck by shame or anger, inviting them to a table of rejoicing and right relationship.

St. Ignatius of Loyola most certainly could identify with these sons.  Later in his life, he came to see the vanity and greed that fueled his earlier years.  The stubbornness and pride he displayed during a battle with the French at Pamplona resulted in a wound that would not only bring him back home in the literal sense, but would be the catalyst for his coming into his spiritual home and healing with God.  In the Spiritual Exercises and, more particularly, the First Principle and Foundation, St. Ignatius teaches that we were created to be with God and that the things of this world can either help or hinder that. As the modern translation of the First Principle and Foundation by Jacqueline Bergan and Sr. Marie Schwan states, “I am from love, of love, for love.”  Famously put another way by St. Augustine, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”

Not unlike the sons in today’s Gospel, we all experience various temptations and disordered attachments that take us far away from home.  We greet ourselves with disdain or shame when we look in the mirror in the morning, we allow screens and substances to numb or distract us, and we feed seemingly insatiable appetites fueled by our inflated egos and irrational fears.  This is all a very real part of the human journey. We find ourselves in distant lands experiencing a deep hunger for which there is only one sustaining solution.

As St. Paul so boldly proclaims to the community at Corinth (and to us), “All this is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ.”  (v. 18) Rather than stand by and watch humanity wander further and further from home, God goes out by providing a bridge between heaven and earth in the person of Jesus.  Our faith in this great act is what allows us to sing the words of the song “Hosea” from God’s perspective, “Long have I waited for your coming home to me and living deeply our new lives.”  Every one of our turnings back to God (be they monumental or miniscule) are cause for rejoicing and celebration.  “Let us celebrate with a feast, because this child of mine was dead, and has come to life again; they were lost, and they have been found.”  (LK 15:23-24)

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