“Too often, the world of religion is different from the world of conversion.”
-Rev. Fr. Gabriel Ma. Delfino
Today is Laetare Sunday which is the Lenten counterpart of the Gaudete Sunday in Advent and also celebrated with the liturgical color of old rose. It invites us to rejoice as our Lenten journey nears to its end. But it also invites us to reflect once again if ever we have truly advanced in the call of lent. Maybe we have already been done with our abstinences, the Stations of the Cross and the Lenten pilgrimage but have we truly turned our lives back again to the Lord? Yes, through the sacrament of reconciliation, but have we lived it through the amendment of our lives? Maybe we have completed the Lent of religion but not the Lent of conversion.
Or maybe we think that conversion is not for us. Let us admit it, most of us have never seen ourselves as the Prodigal Son. Because we have never really turned our backs to God completely and surrendered ourselves to worldly whims and desires. We have never squandered God’s grace. We are good Christians who go to church every Sunday and frequent the sacraments.
If we can’t see ourselves as the Prodigal Son, then I believe that it would help to reflect in being the Grudging Elder Son. Let us examine then how we view our choice to stay in the Father’s house. Do we see the love of the Father as something to earn and gain? Do we see God’s favor as something lose by sinning? Do we see obedience to the Father as slaving ourselves? Do we think that we alone have the right for his attention? So that when a criminal who has offended us has repented and was converted and the Lord throws a party of grace to welcome him, we will stay outside and grumble over it. Then we have truly missed the point of it all and we are as prodigal as the other son and we are in need of conversion as much as them.
We need to convert the way we view things about God and ourselves. Sin is caving in towards ourselves. It is creating our own selfish world. Both sons in the parable are guilty of this. What the grudging son failed to see is that staying away from the love of the Father is enough punishment in itself –the drunkenness with pride and vanity, the hunger for God, the great loneliness and emptiness and the humiliation are enough punishments for his fault. Thus, his survival and his return is truly a reason to celebrate, for he found his true self and he found his true home. We must never grumble against our prodigal brothers and sisters for we can never know what they have gone through before finding God. Another things we might have failed to see is that staying in the Father’s house is a reward in itself, that we were never slaving ourselves but rather living the freedom and glory of the children of God, that we have only done what we ought to do and that we must be thankful that we never have to go what the prodigal has gone through before realizing where he truly belongs.
God plays no favoritism. It is only us who has the tendency to make favorites. We all need to turn our eyes, always to God, to the Father and His love, and never to ourselves. For everything is providential. Everything is grace. And all of us have always something to convert. All of us needs to turn back to God every time, for we will always have our need for God.
Hence, all conversion must be a reason for celebration. For conversion is always a celebration of true life, a life in God, a life in the Promised Land. We ought to celebrate as the Israelites did in the First Reading. And with St Paul, we must all be ambassadors of God, we must all become agents of reconciliation instead of condemnation. This life is never about us, it is all about God and His love. And so let us heed the Psalmist’s call to “Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.”
4th Sunday of Lent
1st Reading: Jos 5:9a, 10-12
Ps 34:2-3, 4-5, 6-7 (9a)
2nd Reading: 2 Cor 5:17-21
Gospel: Luke 15:1-3, 11-32