Fourth Sunday of Lent
March 14, 2010
Luke 15: 11 – 32
On this fourth Sunday of Lent, the Church invites us to reflect on a well-known parable from Saint Luke: The Prodigal Son.
And while it does seem that the principal figure in the story is the younger brother, it is also true that one should take a closer look at the older brother, “the perfect son:” the son who “always obeyed his father.”
Underneath this exterior of perfection is a son who actually considers himself a servant – a slave of his father. Unfortunately, the older son has become angry, bitter and cynical, and the irresponsible, sinful behavior of his prodigal brother provokes the outburst that is recorded in this Gospel account.
The younger son is certainly selfish and irresponsible; he is wantonly wasteful and careless. However, he does come to regret his actions and wants to be forgiven. The young man realizes just how much his father loves him and makes plans to return home; he has undergone a genuine conversion.
Meditating on the Gospel text and guided by the Holy Spirit, each of us must ask himself this question:
Whom do I most resemble?
The younger son or the older son?
Truthfully speaking, neither boy is very attractive. And although the prodigal sinned gravely and his sins are “external,” so it speak, it is the older son whose sins are more offensive. Over the years, his heart has turned to stone and he has become a self-righteous hypocrite – a Pharisee.
On the outside, this unfortunate young man appears perfect, obedient to the point of subservience. Inside, however, in the depth of his soul, he is seething with envy, resentful of his younger brother to the point of hatred. The older boy who remained at home believes himself to be perfect and in his self-righteous state, engages in criticism that is seething and scornful. And is it not also true that in the remarks he made to his father, there is a present long-simmering resentment?
The graces offered to us during this Holy Season invite each of us to examine his conscience in this regard and beg for mercy and forgiveness of all sins of arrogance and pride.
The perfect humility of Christianity and Our Lady call us to ask daily for the Grace of this essential virtue and to repeat the ancient plea: “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.”