A Prodigal Father! – Sunday Synopsis

Justine John Dyikuk

Justine John Dyikuk

Shikrot Mpwi – Sunday Synopsis with Fr. Justine J. Dyikuk  

Fourth Sunday of Lent, Year C (Laetare Sunday) – March 27, 2022.

Readings: Jos. 5:9a.10-12; Responsorial Psalm Ps 34:2-3.4-5.6-7(9a);

2 Cor. 5-17-21 & Gospel Luke 15:1-3.11-32.

Introduction

Beloved in Christ, today being Fourth Sunday of Lent is called Laetare or Rejoice Sunday. It is so called because the Latin words of the Introit “Laetare Jerusalem” (Rejoice, O Jerusalem) taken from Isaiah 66:10 appear in the entrance antiphon at Mass in the Western Christian Liturgical Calendar. As we continue our annual Lenten Observances of prayer, fasting and almsgiving, the Church bids us rejoice because our redemption is near.

Laetare Sunday is considered as a day of relaxation from the normal rigors of Lent as Easter is in view. Traditionally, weddings which are usually discouraged during the period of Lent are performed on Laetare Sunday. To further authenticate “Rejoice Sunday,” servants were released from their Master’s Service to visit their mothers which is why in some Churches, Mothering Sunday is held today.

Background & Summary of the Readings

The first reading (Joshua 5:9a.10-12) narrates how the Lord renews his Covenant with the Israelites through Joshua at Gilgal. It assures that Yahweh has taken away his people’s shame thus reconciling them to himself. It further tells how the people encamped and kept the Passover there on the fourteenth day of the month in the evening at Jericho. It indicates how they ate what the land of Canaan produced – unleavened bread and roasted ears of corn.

In the second reading (2 Corinthians 5-17-21), St. Paul categorically states that “Anyone who is in Christ Jesus is a new creation.” He notes that the older order has passed away and a new one is at work. He maintains that God gave us a ministry of reconciliation. He, therefore, says: “In the name of Christ, we appeal to you to be reconciled to God” stressing that for our sake, God made the sinless one a victim for sin so that we might become the righteousness of God.

The Gospel of Luke (15:1-3.11-32) presents us with the classical story of God’s love for us. In this narrative, which I christened, the parable of “The Prodigal Son and His Prodigal Father,” Jesus chides the Pharisees who complained that tax collectors and sinners were among his audience. As such, he told the parable against this backdrop to demonstrate that the Father’s love does not discriminate but is elastic and ever anew.

In that parable, the younger son of a man who had two sons demanded a share of his father’s property. He went and squandered the money on a life of lose living. He had to hire himself to take care of swine but came back to his senses and returned home. An excited father embraced his son; he ordered that the best robe, ring and sandals be brought for him. He also commanded that the fattened calf be killed. The eldest son who was out in the field refused to enter the house.

He claimed that although he has served his father for years, but did not get even as much as a calf to celebrate with his friends. At that, the Father explained: “My son, you are with me always and all I have is yours. But it was only right that we should celebrate and rejoice because your brother here was dead and has come to life – he was lost and is found.”

Pastoral Lessons

  1. Trust God: The message of the first reading that the Lord renewed his Covenant with the Israelites through Joshua at Gilgal assures contemporary Christians that since the Lord is with us to the end of time (Matthew 28:20), we ought to trust him.
  2. Be Reconciled with God, Embrace Active Participation: The message of the first reading that God has taken away His people’s shame thus reconciling them to Himself, urges us to take advantage of Lent to be reconciled to God individually and as a Church on the one hand and be more committed to a “full, conscious, and active participation” (Sacosanctum Concilium, no.14) during Holy Mass in keeping with the Passover of the Israelites on the plains of Jericho.
  3. Live the Life of the Spirit: The message of St. Paul that “Anyone who is in Christ Jesus is a new creation” urges Christians to live the new life of the Spirit in such a manner that it will renew the face of the earth (Cf. Psalm 104: 30).
  4. Embrace God’s Love: The gospel presents us with the story of a son whose life was prodigal because of his waywardness but invites us to imitate the Father whose love is even more prodigal, elastic and enduring.
  5. Don’t Judge: We are warned to avoid a blind, envious and selfish obedience to God which seeks reward and shuts others from his mercy as demonstrated by the eldest son who wanted to tear the family apart and to realise that God is a “Big Daddy” whose love does not discriminate.

Summary Lines

  1. The first reading narrates how the Lord renews his Covenant with the Israelites through Joshua at Gilgal.
  2. In the second reading, St. Paul categorically states that “Anyone who is in Christ Jesus is a new creation.”
  3. He, therefore, says: “In the name of Christ, we appeal to you to be reconciled to God”
  4. The Gospel of Luke presents us with the classical story of God’s love for us.
  5. But it was only right that we should celebrate and rejoice because your brother here was dead and has come to life.

Conclusion

By telling the parable of the prodigal son, Jesus challenges the Pharisaic in attitude us and assures like Abigail Van Buren would opine: “The Church is a hospital for sinners not a museum for saints.” We are encouraged to come back to our senses and return to our Father who is ready to wash us clean, clothe us; put a ring on our finger and sandals on our feet. We are invited to rejoice because Easter celebration is near. The liturgy also offers us the timeless message of God’s love for us. We are reminded that the season of Lent is an opportunity to take our annual Lenten observances of prayer, fasting and almsgiving seriously. May God help us to be truly reconciled to one another and to Him. Amen.

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