Fourth Sunday in Lent – March 27, 2022
The psalm sets the tone this day: “Happy are they whose transgressions are forgiven, and whose sin is put away!” Happy are those who have “become the righteousness of God” in the merits of Christ Jesus. Happy are those for whom the forgiveness of God has “rolled away . . . the disgrace” of former times. Happy is the father at the return of his prodigal son. Happy are we that our sins are forgiven for Jesus’ sake. Rejoice!
Joshua 5:9-12 - Israel eats bread and grain, the produce of the land
Psalm 32 - Be glad, you righteous, and rejoice in the Lord.
2 Corinthians 5:16-21 - The mystery and ministry of reconciliation
Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32 - The parable of the prodigal father and the repentant son
Prayer of the Day
God of compassion, you welcome the wayward, and you embrace us all with your mercy. By our baptism clothe us with garments of your grace, and feed us at the table of your love, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
GOSPEL MESSAGE – As We Forgive Others
Jesus’ parables are not simple fables with fixed meanings, but unsettling plot-twisting narratives that raise more questions than they answer. If we set aside the most familiar interpretations of today’s gospel and enter into the story through another door (or another character’s point of view), we may find surprising new insights.
What if the story of the prodigal son is not only about the steadfast love and forgiveness of God the Father? What if it is also a story about the complexity of family life, grudges held for years, words left unspoken, and scores unsettled? That is, what if this is a story about us?
Like most parables, the story ends unfinished, and we’re left to ponder what happens next as it continues to unfold off the page. Does the older brother accept his father’s invitation and come back to the party? Does anyone ever thank him for his years of loyalty? Is the younger brother really changed by his experience, or is his father enabling him? Do the mother and sisters show up? Will the family fall back into the same old dynamics, or will there be accountability and repair?
The good news in this story is that God loves all of these characters: the selfish son, the foolish father, the resentful brother, the absent mother. And God’s love frees them to change.
Forgiveness is complicated. While we draw strength from the power of being wholly and unconditionally forgiven by God, human relationships are messy. It is rare that one party is entirely wrong and another entirely gracious. We pray as Jesus taught us: “Forgive us, as we forgive others.”
At its most basic, repentance means changing our way of perceiving. This is also the first movement of forgiveness: imagining ourselves in another’s place, seeing the situation through their eyes. Held in the power of God’s love, we are free to let our perception shift and to break out of the ruts of family systems to find new ways of being.
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