Saturday, March 17, 2007

Sunday, March 17 ~ Fourth Sunday of Lent

First of all, I sincerely apologize to all of you whom I disappointed and/or inconvenienced by not posting this reflection sooner.

Luke 15: 1-3, 11-32

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes murmured, saying, "This man receives sinners and eats with them." So he told them this parable: And he said, "There was a man who had two sons; and the younger of them said to his father, `Father, give me the share of property that falls to me.' And he divided his living between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took his journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in loose living. And when he had spent everything, a great famine arose in that country, and he began to be in want. So he went and joined himself to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would gladly have fed on the pods that the swine ate; and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself he said, `How many of my father's hired servants have bread enough and to spare, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me as one of your hired servants."' And he arose and came to his father. But while he was yet at a distance, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, `Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' But the father said to his servants, `Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet; and bring the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and make merry; for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.' And they began to make merry. "Now his elder son was in the field; and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants and asked what this meant. And he said to him, `Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has received him safe and sound.' But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, `Lo, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command; yet you never gave me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your living with harlots, you killed for him the fatted calf!' And he said to him, `Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to make merry and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.'"

Questions for Reflection and/or Discussion

We are all sinners. How often are we like the prodigal son in asking the Father for all that is due to us before we have earned it? And, how do we react when He generously gives it to us? We squander His blessings. Then, we wallow in misery, proclaiming, “Why me?” Especially as mothers, we have a tendency to turn inwardly, to ourselves, to our home, to our family, and to neglect the abundant compassion of our Almighty. Today, am I squandering the blessings God has bestowed on me?

This prodigal son, though, repents. He realizes his mistakes and begs for forgiveness, content to be considered a servant. But, the Father’s compassion is overwhelming. He blesses him above and beyond his previous allotment. Just last night, I was begging God for mercy, begging Him to help me look outside of my prideful self and see His purpose for my life. Intellectually, I know my vocation is noble, to be a wife and mother, but how often do we succumb to human nature and selfishly turn inwardly? How often do we cry out, complaining we are not capable of surviving such mundane challenges?

I suffer the sin of pride, just as the prodigal son. The Lord has blessed me richly, but I sometimes take it all and waste it in self-pity. I cannot imagine that I can survive the often overwhelming challenges of my seemingly simple days. Then, I am reminded of the Cross. I am reminded, particularly by the song of Marie Bellet that “the burden here is sweet, compared to Calvary.” Does my pride cause me to seize control of my burdens and not lay them down before our Lord? Do I allow the everyday burdens I bear to overwhelm me and forget to rely on Christ’s compassion to carry me through my darkest hours?

Then, when I shout into the darkness in the depths of my heart, He is there. He hears me, and instead of being angry at my unbelief and doubt, He embraces me in mercy. I fall to my knees when He insists on giving me the best robe and shoes and ring. There is great celebration in Heaven EVERY time each one of us repents, no matter how many times we do it. And, if you are anything like me, you repent time and time again, regretting the despair and disillusionment that causes us to cast aside the Lord. Am I in need of repentance today? Do I need to fall to my knees and beg to be treated as a servant? Have I experienced the tender compassion of Christ, as He celebrates with great joy my return to His fold?

How long does it last? How quickly do I turn away again? How often must I declare contrition for abandoning God? He never abandons us; He sits by patiently waiting to be called upon. That is what He has been doing for me. I know, rationally, that He has been sitting beside me, waiting for me to cry out in sorrow for my callousness. And, the moment, I cried out (last night), I was healed. Of course, temptation still eats at my confidence even today. The difference today is that I am doubting myself more than God, one step closer to Truth. What are your doubts today?

And, if you are feeling close to God, on the mountaintop, as they say, how do you view the rest of us? Are you the angry brother, envious that others are blessed with such little faith? If you are the faithful one, you bear a unique cross. You must be merry on your plateau of peace. Do you rejoice when you see others turn towards Christ? Do you question the contrition or faith of others? Do you beg God for the glory of redemption when it is already in your grasp? Do you grow lax in your faith or practice, because it is too ordinary? It is I who wish for the steadfast faith you have. Just as the workers who complain about receiving the same wages for a full day’s work as those who work only a few hours, we will all be judged by the state of our souls at our final hour, not before. There is still time. We cannot despair. Lord, have mercy.

Christ shield me this day: Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ when I lie down, Christ when I arise, Christ in the heart of every person who thinks of me, Christ in the eye that sees me, Christ in the ear that hears me. ~ St. Patrick

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