Sunday Church at Home, 4th Sunday in Lent, Cycle C

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4th Sunday in Lent, Cycle C

27th March, 2022

Sunday Church at Home

during lockdown in the Coronavirus Pandemic

Saved by the Love of the Father.  

The lay leader makes the sign of the cross, saying:

Leader:        In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

All reply:      Amen

Leader:        Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

All reply:      Blessed be God for ever

Leader:        Mercy is not just the healing of a wound. It is the creation of a new form of life, just as the resurrection is more than the return to our old life..

LITURGY OF THE WORD

First Reading: Joshua 5:9a.10-12

Introduction to the reading:

After Moses died, God selected Joshua to lead the Israelites.  In this reading, Joshua and the Israelites have just crossed the Jordan River and now at long last are in the Promised Land.

A reading from the Book of Joshua

In those days:
The Lord said to Joshua,
“This day I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.”

While the people of Israel were encamped in Gilgal
they kept the passover on the fourteenth day of the month
at evening in the plains of Jericho.
And on the next day after the passover,
on that very day,
they ate of the produce of the land,
unleavened cakes and parched grain.
And the manna ceased on the next day,
when they ate of the produce of the land;
and the people of Israel had manna no more,
but ate of the fruit of the land of Canaan that year.

The word of the Lord.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 34:2-3.4-5.6-7(R.9a)

Let us pray the Responsorial Psalm.

R/:  Taste and see that the Lord is good!

I will bless the Lord at all times,

Praise of him is always in my mouth.

In the Lord my soul shall make its boast;

The humble shall hear and be glad.

Glorify the Lord with me;

together let us praise his name.

I sought the Lord, and he answered me;

From all my terrors he set me free.

Look towards him and be radiant;

Let your faces not be abashed.

This lowly one called; the Lord heard,

And rescued him from all his distress.

R/:   Taste and see that the Lord is good!

Second reading: 2 Corinthians 5:17-21

Introduction to the reading:  Some members of the Corinthian community found it hard to accept Paul’s teachings.  They challenged his credentials and sincerity as an apostle because he was not an eyewitness to the earthly life of Jesus.  In this passage, Paul defends his ministry as an apostle.

A reading from the second Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians.

Brothers and sisters:

if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation;
the old has passed away,
behold, the new has come.
All this is from God,
who through Christ reconciled us to himself
and gave us the ministry of reconciliation;
that is, in Christ, God was reconcilingthe world to himself,
not counting their trespasses against them,
and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.
So we are ambassadors for Christ,
God making his appeal through us.
We beg you on behalf of Christ,
be reconciled to God.
For our sake he made him to be sinwho knew no sin,
so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

The Word of the Lord.

Glory and praise to you, O Christ.
I will arise and go to my father and I will say to him:
Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you.
Glory and praise to you, O Christ.

Gospel: Luke 15:1-3.11-32

A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Luke.

At that time:
The tax collectors and sinners
were all drawing near to hear Jesus.
And the Pharisees and the scribes murmured, saying,
“This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

So he told them this parable:
“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 onthe 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,
‘Behold, 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.’”

The Gospel of the Lord.

Reflection on the Readings

The leader reads the text prepared by the priest and leads the sharing.

An elderly man is walking on the beach and notices an unusual brass lamp half buried in the sand. So he picked it up and started cleaning it. Wooosh – a genie appeared and said: “Because you have freed me I will grant you one wish.” The man thought for a moment and then said. “I had a fight with my  older brother thirty years ago. He is my only brother. I want to be reconciled with him so that he may forgive me and start loving me.” The genie said, “I am glad that you did not ask for money or riches. Your wish is granted. Are you sick and about to die?” the genie enquired. “No way!” the man said, “but my unmarried, older brother is about to die and he’s worth about R60 million!!”

We smile at this joke, but do we need a genie and a magic wish to be reconciled with a family member?

In the second reading today, St Paul told the community in Corinth that: “if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation;
the old has passed away,
behold, the new has come.”

What Paul said to the Corinthians applies to us as well because we are part of God’s community through our baptism. The love of Christ has made us a ‘new creation’. Our “new-creation eyes” challenge us to be open to seeing and accepting others. In that way, we become “ambassadors of Christ.”

We want to put aside the old standards of social standing, race, wealth, etc. As St Paul puts it, “the old things have passed away, behold, new things have come.” We are “in Christ,” that is, we have a new existence in Christ. This new way of being is not a one-time gift, but is ongoing. A new way of being lets change become an integral and regular possibility in my life.

That is good news for us in Lent as we reflect on our failures to live the gift of the new creation Christ has made us. In our new way of being we are called to be ministers of reconciliation – “ambassadors for Christ.” Is that how we would describe ourselves?

When we think of ministers of reconciliation, we tend to think only of a priest in the Sacrament of Reconciliation hearing Confessions. Paul is asking us all to be ministers of reconciliation. It is Lent and we recognize our need to be more fully reconciled to God. In this time of Lent, we want to ask for the grace to strive to fulfil the responsibility Christ has given us – to be his “ambassadors.”

Because of Jesus, we have a new relationship with God. Our lives are transformed and we have become visible expressions to the world of our new reality. God’s love has freed us from the burden of sin and guilt. That means we should turn our attention to being agents of that love to others, so they can also experience what we have experienced.

Paul repeatedly proclaims that Christ died for our sins, for our salvation. He expresses this fundamental belief using different language and images to explain what he means.

In today’s extract from the letter to the Corinthians, Paul uses the image of reconciliation that has happened because of God’s forgiveness. Sin has messed up our relationship with God and others. Paul sees salvation as restoring those relationships. What we could not do on our own, God has accomplished through Christ.

Here comes the “therefore” – what we need to do in response to Christ dying for our sins, for our salvation. Because we have been reconciled with God through Christ, we have the possibility and the responsibility of restoring our relationships with others. So, we can set about doing that work. God has entrusted “to us the message of reconciliation.” That means we have to bring together what is separated.

The powerful parable of the Prodigal Son gives one example of what that reconciliation might look like.

The way the forgiving father acts in the parable shows how God acts – extravagantly loving, forgiving and welcoming to the prodigal who had turned his back on everyone and everything. The extravagant love by the father stirs up resentment in the older son who has diligently done what was expected of him.

In our world some people resent the care that is extended to others. Think of the miserable conditions of many people in the squatter camps around Joburg.  The opinion among some is, “Well, why don’t they get a job and earn some money for food and stuff. Why don’t they go back to where they came from.”

Paul tells us we are a “new creation” – we don’t apply the old ways of thinking. Therefore, we are “ambassadors for Christ,” given the task by God to carry the “message of reconciliation” to the world.

What would this behaviour look like? The father in today’s parable shows us quite clearly. He not only welcomes home his prodigal son, he also goes out of his way to the elder brother who refuses to enter thehomecoming celebration. The father takes the initiative and pleads with him, trying to reconcile the two brothers.

The elder son makes a good argument for refusing to welcome his younger brother home. Despite all this, the lavish generosity the father poured out to the younger son is now offered to the resentful brother outside. The doors of the household are open for both, because the father’s love knows no limits.

We are in different places on our life’s journey. If we have been hurt by someone, sometimes it seems that reconciliation is out of our reach.The anger can sit inside us, growing and growing. Just the mere mention of the offender’s name brings up thoughts and plans for revenge. I am going to get him back, if it is the last thing I do!

This Lent we ask our forgiving God to break through our anger and help us move towards forgiveness, to our “ministry of reconciliation.” If we are alienated from family members, the example of the younger son may inspire us to turn around, to return home to seek reconciliation.

Or we may be like the older brother who has been a diligent, hard-working son and family member, always trying to do what is right. We can look into our hearts to make sure that we are not self-righteous and scornful towards the less obedient and the less diligent. Today we rejoice and we trust in God’s loving and forgiving ways.

We pray that we all may be “ministers of reconciliation.”

From today’s 2 Corinthians reading:

“Whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away;

behold, new things have come.”

Reflection:

Paul says our relationship with God was restored, not through any work of ours, but through God’s initiative in Christ. It wasn’t just Jesus’ sacrificial death that accomplished our reconciliation, but his sacrificial life. Throughout his life he poured himself out for us in love. This was God’s doing and, if we accept it in faith, we are reconciled to God.

So, we ask ourselves:

  • What touched me in the readings today?
  • As we reflect on our lives this Lent, what feels “old”: a worn-out way of behaving?
  • Have we noticed any signs of new life in those very areas?

Prayer of the Faithful

Leader:       

Let us ask the Lord to be in our hearts that we may forgive without reserve.

Reader:

We pray for Pope Francis: that he may teach the world the forgiveness of Christ.

LORD HEAR US

We pray for peace and an end to warfare: that God will change hearts of those advancing violence, help them to recognize the value and dignity of each person, and open new opportunities for dialogue.

LORD HEAR US

We pray for freedom from our resentments: that we may surrender our resentments to God who frees us from hurts and teaches us to love.

LORD HEAR US

We pray for all who have left or become alienated from the church: that God will touch their hearts and help us to reach out and welcome them into our faith community.

LORD HEAR US

We pray all who are ill: that God’s renewing love will strengthen and comfort all who are facing surgery or who have been hospitalized.

LORD HEAR US

We pray for members of our families and friends who have died and those whose anniversaries occur about this time,

LORD HEAR US.

Leader:        PRAYER FOR LENT

Loving God,

during the sacred season of Lent,

bring us closer to you. 

Prepare a place in our parish and in our hearts

for silence and solitude,

so that we may rediscover

the grace of a prayerful life. 

Help us to fast from those things

that threaten the well-being of our bodies and souls; remind us of the grace of simplicity. 

Grant us generous hearts

so that we can give to those in need

and, in so doing,

rediscover the grace of gratitude and generosity. 

May this season be a grace-filled time

to rekindle a love for you.

We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Spiritual Communion

We can unite ourselves to the Eucharist through making a spiritual Communion.

By making an Act of Spiritual Communion, we express our faith in Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist and ask him to unite himself with us.

My Jesus, I believe you are really here in the Blessed Sacrament.
I love you more than anything in the world, and I hunger to receive you.
But since I cannot receive Communion at this moment, feed my soul at least spiritually. I unite myself to you now as I do when I actually receive you. Amen.

CONCLUDING RITE

Leader:        Let us pray to the Father in the words Jesus our Saviour gave us:

All say:        Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  Amen.

Leader:       

God of salvation,

through your Word
you reconcile the human race to yourself
in a wonderful way.
Grant, we pray,
with devotion and eager faith
the Christian people may hasten towards
the solemn celebrations to come.

We ask this through Christ, our deliverance and hope,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one holy and mighty God for ever and ever.

Amen.

Blessing

The leader says:

May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil and bring us to everlasting life.

All:               Amen.

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