Tag Archives: 4th sunday of Lent

4th Sunday of Lent C: The Prodigal Son

To listen to today’s homily, please select the audio bar below.

The story of the prodigal son is one of the longest in the gospel and it’s also one of the most important. It’s not just about a boy who goes astray, of course, it’s about the human race gone wrong.

“Give me what’s mine,” the son says boldly to his father. We all tend to say that. And he takes off for a faraway country, a permissive paradise that promises power and pleasure, in fact, it promises him everything, where he can do anything he wants.

But they’re empty promises, and soon the boy who had so much has nothing and ends up in a pigsty feeding pigs, who eat better than he does.

Then, he takes his first step back. He “comes to himself,” our story says; he realizes what he has done. “I have sinned.”

How straightforward his reaction! Not blaming anybody else for the mess he is in: not his father, or the prostitutes he spent so much of his money on, or society that fooled him. No, he takes responsibility. That “coming to himself” was the first gift of God’s mercy.

He doesn’t wallow in his sin and what it’s brought him, either. He doesn’t let it trap him. He looks beyond it to the place where he belongs, to his father’s house. It wont be an easy road, but he keeps his eyes on it and starts back home.

There he’s surprised by the welcome he receives. More than he ever expected. The father takes into his arms and calls for feast.

His story is our story too.

In these days of Lent, many of us approach the sacrament of reconciliation.  That sacrament is very much like the journey the son takes back to his father. First of all, we look for the mercy of God to come to ourselves, to know our sins and to look for our place in our Father’s house.

Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. we say beginning our confession. The prayer of the son has become our prayer. We acknowledge our sins.

Then the priest who represents Jesus, who speaks for his Father in heaven, says.

God, the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of our sins.

Through the ministry of the church, may God grant you pardon and peace, and I absolve you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

We receive pardon and peace, the gift of God’s mercy.

How easily we leave your side,

Lord God,

for a place far away.

Send light into our darkness,

and open our eyes to our sins.

Unless you give us new hearts and strong spirits,

we cannot make the journey home,

to your welcoming arms and the music and the dancing.

Father of mercies and giver of all gifts,

guide us home

and lead us back to you.

4th Sunday of Lent B: Unbelief and Skepticism

Audio version below:

Today there’s a great deal of unbelief and skepticism about God and Jesus Christ in our society. I’m watching the CNN series on Jesus on Sunday nights during Lent called “Finding Jesus.” If the remaining segments are like the two I’ve seen so far, I think you will have to find Jesus elsewhere than on CNN. You may end up wondering whether you can find him at all or– just as unfortunate– wondering whether finding him is worthwhile.

Last Sunday’s segment was about John the Baptist. To tell you the truth, as they dramatized John’s life, I found him peculiar and unstable. I don’t think I would follow him and I certainly wouldn’t want him to dunk me into a river of water. The segment suggested that John was the teacher of Jesus, his mentor. I’m wondering what the next episodes are going to be like. Is Jesus going to be portrayed like John? If he is, I wouldn’t want to follow him either.

The mainstream media by nature is skeptical, so it keeps asking questions like: Did Jesus really exist? What did he look like? What are the facts about his birth, his life and his death? Are other gospels out there that contradict the four we know? Have the archeologists found out anything more about him? Was he married? Is there anything new about him?

Nothing wrong with most of those questions except that questions alone wont get you the truth. You can  get buried under facts. You can try to know too many facts. Knowing the facts isn’t necessary to start a friendship, get married, to begin a business, to make a medical decision, or to believe.

But we shouldn’t be surprised– there’s always been unbelief and skepticism. Our first reading this Sunday from the Old Testament tells us that:. “In those days, all the princes of Judah, the priests, and the people added infidelity to infidelity…Early and often did the LORD, the God of their fathers, send his messengers to them”… “But they mocked the messengers of God, despised his warnings, and scoffed at his prophets.” Their unbelief led to destruction and exile. (2 Chronicles, 36,14-16) Skepticism and unbelief are nothing new.

In the New Testament passage from John, Nicodemus meets Jesus, but he only comes at night. He’s someone who’s reluctant to believe. He is a Pharisee, a member of the Sanhedrin, the ruling body of Jews at the time of Jesus. He’s interested in what Jesus has to say but he’s hesitant, perhaps because he’s in the minority, so it’s not the popular thing to do. Or perhaps he can’t understand the dimensions of what Jesus reveals. Jesus speaks of a greater life, a new birth, and Nicodemus can only grasp life as he sees it and lives it.

Some today are reluctant to believe for the same reasons, so they keep asking questions, or give up seeking altogether. You might be in the minority if you believe, for example. You wont be popular with everybody if you believe. You may be confused or uncertain or wondering about the faith you are asked to hold onto.

The interesting thing is the God doesn’t give up on the unbeliever or those like Nicodemus who are uncertain or confused or questioning. God meets you in the night. So come to God with the faith you have. Why doesn’t God give up on us? Listen again to our reading from John’s gospel.

Jesus said to Nicodemus:
“Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert,
so must the Son of Man be lifted up,
so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him might not perish
but might have eternal life.
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world,
but that the world might be saved through him.

God so loved the world. And the great sign of God’s love is the death of Jesus on the Cross. What greater sign of love could God give?

4th Sunday of Lent

Lent 1
Readings (Please read further for Spanish and Swahili versions)
The story of the blind man receiving his sight (John 9,1-41) is a dramatic gospel, not only because of the miracle, but because of the heated exchanges and clever dialogue found in it. Jesus and his disciples, the blind man himself, his parents and neighbors and a divided group of Pharisees all interact vigorously in the story.

Unlike others, this blind man did not approach Jesus. Rather, Jesus approached him. And remarkably, the miracle did not just restore the man’s sight. Blind from birth, he never before had the power to see. Could he represent those who can do nothing for themselves? Nothing at all, except wait for the power of God? He could be all of us.

At the sight of the woebegone beggar, Jesus’ disciples wondered: did he do something to deserve it? Some sin he or his parents had committed? No, Jesus replied. “He was born blind so that God’s power might be displayed in curing him.”

It was Jesus’ message always: God wills to display his power in the poor. God’s power — healing, restoring, creating — goes out to the blind man and others like him. And as Jesus dispensed this power, so too he told his disciples “to carry on while daylight lasts the work of him who sent me.”
God’s power, not our own, is given to the poor. As Jesus’ disciples, we must work to share it with others. Then, perhaps, some of its blessing will fall on us. After all, aren’t we poor too?

“Humbly see your nothingness, never lose sight of it. Then, when His Divine Majesty makes it disappear in the Infinite All that is himself, stay there lost without seeing who you are any more. It’s not important. Follow his divine inspirations. The less you understand, the more ignorant you are in this school, the more learned you become. Neither you or any creature can know the grandeur of God and the divine impression he makes on humble hearts because he delights in them.” ( St. Paul of the Cross: Letter 929)

Lord,
I am blind;
Help me to see.

Spanish

4to domingo de Cuaresma, Año A
Juan 9, 1- 4

Este es un evangelio dramático, no solo por el milagro, sinó también debido a los animados intercambios verbales y diestro diálogo que se encuentran en él. Jesús y sus discípulos, el mismo hombre ciego, sus padres y vecinos, y un fracturado grupo de fariseos todos discuten vigorosamente en este cuento.

En contraste con otros, este ciego no buscó a Jesús. Mas bién, Jesús lo buscó a él. Es interesante que el milagro no solamente restauró la vista del hombre. Ciego desde nacimiento, él nunca había tenido el poder de ver. ¿Puede él representar a todos los que no pueden hacer nada por sí mismos? ¿Nada en lo absoluto, excepto esperar por el poder de Diós? Él nos puede representar a todos nosotros.

Frente al cuadro de este triste mendigo, los discípulos se preguntaban : ¿Será que él hizo algo para merecerse esto? ¿Algún pecado que él o sus padres habían cometido? No, respondío Jesús. ” él nació ciego para qué el poder de Diós sea manifestado en su cura.”

Era el mensaje de Jesús siempre: Diós escoge demostrar su poder por medio de los pobres. El poder de Diós- que sana, restaura y crea- procede hacía el hombre ciego y otros como él. Y mientras Jesús dispensaba este poder, también le decía a sus discípulos ” que sigan con el trabajo de Quién los mandó mientras todavía dura la luz del día.”

El poder de Diós, no el nuestro, es que se le da a los pobres. Como discípulos de Jesús, tenemos que trabajar para compartirlo con otros. Entonces, quizás, algunas de sus bendiciones caerán sobre nosotros. ¿Despúes de todo, no somos nosotros pobres también?

“En humildad nota tu insignifícancia, nunca pierdas vista de ella. Entonces, cuando su Divina Majestad hace que se desparezca en la Totalidad Infinita que es Él, descansa ahí perdido sin ver quien ya no eres. No es importante. Sigue sus inspiraciones divinas. Lo menos que entiendes, lo mas ignorante que eres en esta escuela, lo mas qué aprendes. Ni tú ni ninguna criatura puede comprender la grandeza de Diós y la divina impresión que él hace en los corazones hulmildes porque el se deleita en ellos.” (San Pablo de la Cruz: Carta 929)

Señor,
Estoy ciego;
Ayúdame a ver.

Lent
Jampili ya Nne Mwaka A
Hi ni Injili ya matukio, si kwa sababu ya miujiza tu, ila kwa sababu ya majadiliano motomoto na yenye uelewa yanayopatikana humo. Yesu na wanafunzi wake, kipofu mwenyewe, wazazi wake, majirani na kikundi cha mafarisayo kilichogawanyika, wote wanachangia kwenye hadithi.
Tofauti na wengine, kipofu hakumkaribia Yesu. Bali Yesu ndiye aliyemkaribia. Kwa namna ya pekee muujiza haukumfanya kipofu apate kuona tu. Kipofu tangu kuzaliwa, hakuwahi kuwa na uwezo wa kuona. Inawezekana kuwa anawakilisha wale ambao hawana uwezo wa kufanya kitu chochote wenyewe. Hawawezi kufanya kitu chochote ila kusubiri nguvu na uwezo wa mungu. Kipofu huyo anaweza kuwa sisi sote.
Wanafunzi wa Yesu wanashangaa kama alitenda kitu kilichomfanya astahili kuwa kipofu. Alitenda dhambi au wazazi wake ndio walitenda dhambi? La, Yesu aliwajibu. “Alizaliwa kipofu ili nguvu kuu ya mungu iweze kudhihirika katika kumponya.”
Ulikuwa ni ujumbe wa Yesu kila mara: Mapenzi ya Mungu ni kuonyesha uwezo wake kwa maskini. Nguvu za mungu za uponyaji, kurejesha na kuomba vinamuendea yule kipofu na wengine kama yeye. Vile Yesu alivotoa uwezo na nguvu ya uponyaji, aliwahimiza wanafunzi wake kuendeleza kazi ya mungu aliyemtuma yeye kuifanya.
Nguvu ya mungu si yetu, imetolewa kwa maskini. Sisi kama wanafunzi wa Yesu, inatubidi tufanye kazi na kuishirikisha nguvu hiyo kwa wenzetu. Nasi pia pengine huenda tukapata baadhi ya baraka zake. Hata hivyo kwa sisi pia ni maskini.
Mtakatifu Paulo wa Msalaba
Jinyenyekea na kuona kuwa huna kitu, na usipotese muelekeo. Halafu wakati utukufu wake mungu utatufanya nasi tupotelea kwake. Kaa pale na ujione kana kwamba haupo. Fuata maagizo au maelezo yake mungu. Vile unapungukiwa na kuelewa hapo ndivyo unavyojioana huna kitu katika shule yake. Hamna kiumbe chochote kinachoweza kufahamu alama anayoweka kwenye mioyo ya wanyenyekevu kwa sababu anapata furaha katika hao.(Barua 020, December 21, 1754)

The Man Who Came By Night

John 3, 14-21 4th Sunday of Lent

After Jesus cleanses the temple and says prophetically he himself is its replacement, Nicodemus comes to see him by night. He’s a Pharisee, an important person in Jerusalem, probably connected with the temple worship, and no doubt worried what people would think if they saw him with Jesus by day. In fact, other Jewish leaders in the city were thinking of putting him to death.

But despite coming to Jesus in the darkness, Nicodemus is not a slave of the dark. He’s looking for light. Maybe he’s not the bravest person in the world, but he’s an honest questioner, searching for the truth. Jesus does not point out to him his miracles, his healings, the crowds he draws, to establish his credentials. It’s not success stories he tells Nicodemus. It’s a story of a tragedy turned into victory.

Nicodemus would have recognized the story Jesus tells–a story from the epic desert journey of the Jews from Egypt to the Promised Land when they fell into unbelief and doubt and were bitten by snakes causing many of them to die.

Then, a serpent was lifted up on a staff, and they were healed at the sight. It will not be Jesus’ successes that bring Nicodemus to believe in him. He would soon see Jesus lifted up on a cross and, by God’s grace, he came to believe. God’s mercy and love were there before him, healing all who needed forgiveness.

The Pharisee, a leader in Israel, doesn’t hide in the dark any more; along with Joseph of Arimithea, another Jewish official drawn to Jesus, Nicodemus boldly goes to Pilate to ask for Jesus’ body and they bury it in a  tomb nearby. The mystery of the Cross brought Nicodemus to believe.

We go to you through questions, Lord, sometimes with our doubts. Like Nicodemus we often go to you in the night, but you do not mind receiving us then. For with you “the night itself is like the day.”

As long as we do not love the darkness, you listen and reach out. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but might have eternal life.”

Teach us wisdom through your cross.