Today, the fourth Sunday of Lent, is traditionally known as Laetare Sunday, the Church takes a bit of breath from Lenten practice and opens Mass with Entrance Antiphon, “Laetare (Rejoice), Jerusalem… Be joyful, all who were in mourning!” – taken from Isaiah chapter 66.
Are we supposed to “Rejoice!” in the middle of Lent? Indeed we are! On this Sunday, we look with expectation to the great Solemnity of Easter for which we have been preparing ourselves as a Church during the Lenten Season. By its anticipation of the joy of Easter, Laetare Sunday is meant to give us hope and encouragement as we slowly progress towards the Paschal Feast.
The holy season of Lent is not so much a time for mourning, rather a time of recognizing God’s love. The readings bring us the message that forgiveness is at the heart of God’s plan for us and that forgiveness invites us for a new beginning. We are invited to accept God’s abounding forgiveness.
The first reading from the book of Joshua recounts God’s mercy in rolling away the Egyptian disgrace: that of slavery, humiliation, mockery and shameful living. The Lord invites them to start afresh a new life modeled on His commandments. This message becomes prominent in the second reading, where St. Paul, stresses that ‘new creation’ comes with faith in Jesus. But it is the Gospel reading that climaxes this message of forgiveness.
The parable of the prodigal son manifests the ‘shocking generosity’ of the father. The younger son claims his share of the property and thereby effectively considers his father to be dead. Luke shows the depth to which the son stoops down, when he pursues an unclean occupation in feeding swine: an abomination to the Jews. Yet there is a silver lining. The pivotal verse ‘when he came to his senses’ changes the direction of the story and highlights the repentance. The contrast is made visible in the encounter with the elder son, who, being with the father in all his righteousness was ‘lost’.
We are invited to be the ‘father’ in the parable. The father, who had been wronged, was forgiving. But the eldest son, who had not been wronged, was unforgiving. Let us, during this season of Lent try to restore our sonship/daughtership with the Heavenly father.
Let our prayer today be, Father let me taste your love and offer it to others.