Fourth Sunday of Lent

Dear Friends,

A couple, very dedicated members of our parish, asked me this question over a month ago: “Father, do you have a rose-colored vestment?” I was not sure though I knew we had chasubles in pink, purple or violet, and even one that might pass for rose. So I told them to come and see our chasubles in the sacristy. They did. They decided that we really did not have a rose-colored vestment and so they ordered and donated a beautiful rose chasuble which is what you see us priests wearing today for this Sunday which is traditionally known as “Laetare” Sunday or “Rejoice” Sunday. Thank you to this wonderful couple for their thoughtfulness. I have seen such demonstrations of commitment, donations of church and liturgical articles, by other parishioners too – many of whom wish to remain anonymous. May God bless their goodness.

“Rejoice” Sunday? Isn’t it strange that the church focuses on joyful celebration today, half way through this penitential season of Lent? Not really. The Church wants us to remember that a Christian’s joy of living, as promised by Jesus, is not to be lost even in the midst of penance and austerity. In fact, the entrance antiphon of today’s liturgy, “Rejoice, Jerusalem, and all who love her…” is meant to affirm that there is much to rejoice about. That is all the more clear from the Scripture passages of today: The first reading is about the Israelites passing into the Promised Land. One can taste the goodness of God in the responsorial psalm. And in the Gospel, the prodigal son returns home. All these are indicative of an atmosphere of warmth and excitement and celebration.

As a parish community, we need to experience as well as radiate this joyful attitude. St. Matthias is a parish community where all are welcome – an important factor that already helps us to be a joyful people. We celebrate with gusto. Today’s readings invite us to examine how convinced we are of this Scriptural truth of the cause of our joy. Many Biblical scholars say that the parable of the prodigal son should have been named the parable of the ‘prodigal father,’ because it is the father who is literally ‘prodigal’ with his joyful welcome and loving mercy to the younger son. It is the father who is lavish in accepting his wayward son without any pre-condition or even a question. And Jesus insists that what he showed is the quintessential characteristic of our heavenly Father.

Such a truth is hard to believe, simply because it goes contrary to all our human experiences. Is there any parent who will reinstate their rebellious son or daughter without any condition? Even when the older son refused to enter the house in protest of his father’s handling of his younger brother, how did the father react? A parishioner, reflecting on this passage in the LIVE LENT group, rightly commented that it was not, “come on now, grow up!” but a gentle and understanding response. Such is the nature of our God.

May we reaffirm our faith in the unconditional acceptance and loving forgiveness of our God as taught by Jesus Christ. Isn’t this enough reason for us to be joyful – no matter what happens in and around us?

Happy Lent!

Your brother in Christ,

Fr. Abraham Orapankal