Return to the Father’s Joy
Today is known as Laetare (Rejoice) Sunday! The entrance antiphon to this Sunday’s mass from Is 66: 10-11 encourages us to rejoice, to be joyful. The rose-colored vestments, flowers-decorated altar, and temporary restoration of instrumental music in the liturgy symbolize the Easter joy this Sunday anticipates. As we anticipate the joy we shall celebrate at Easter, let us not lose focus of our goal: repentance- a change of our mind and heart toward a fuller and joyful self-gifting to God and his will. Let’s not forget that God wants to restore us to the life of grace we lost through sin.
We reflected on the urgency of the call to repentance last Sunday. This week we contemplate God’s fatherly patience and steadfast love for us. Let’s consider repentance from the father's abundant merciful love for his two sons in the familiar parable of the Prodigal Son (Lk 15: 1-3, 11-32). We see in the father an unconditional love for his wayward sons. And I include the prodigal son's elder brother as needy of the father’s merciful love. The out-of-the-way and excessive demonstration of mercy is the new direction Christ is leading us as we contemplate repentance. There are elements of the younger son and the older son in each of us. We sin by rejecting God like the younger son and whenever we feel self-righteous like the older son. The younger son was extravagant, selfish, and wasteful of God’s grace until he came to his senses after hitting the bottom of his sinful life by the movement of grace. The older son is prideful and self-centered; he feels he has earned the father’s reward. The condition of both sons is sinful, and it is only through the father’s generous love and mercy that they get reconciled to him.
With joy, let us celebrate the unconditional and abundant love of the Father. Then, let us return to the father in humility and a contrite heart that God never rejects (Ps.51:17). Additional opportunities for the sacrament of reconciliation are made available for us during the season of Lent. Let us return home to embrace the Father’s generous love and mercy (Eph. 2:4).
Have you considered returning to the Father’s love in the sacrament of reconciliation during this Lenten season?
In His Merciful Love,
Fr. Bernard, O.P.