Fourth Sunday of Lent – March 10

rembrandtvanrijn_the_return_of_the_prodigal_son_detail_4Central Idea: The joy of reconciliation. Doctrine: The Sacrament of Reconciliation. Practical Application: Making a good Confession.

To view the readings, click here. (Lectionary: 33)

Central Idea: We have joy because our sins are forgiven and we are reconciled with the Father

Jos 5:9a, 10-12 & Psalm Ps 34:2-3, 4-5, 6-7
  • After a very long wait—400 years in Egypt and 40 years in the wilderness—God’s promise to Israel to give them a land “flowing with milk and honey” was fulfilled and the people were glad.
  • The Lord removed the reproach of slavery they were under in Egypt.
  • The Psalm perfectly reflects their joy: “Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.”
  • Because God has made promises to us, we have a right to put him to the test. Do I experience the goodness of the Lord? Even though the complete and secure possession of life and happiness will only occur in heaven, do I have a “taste” of it here?
2 Cor 5:17-21
  • With Christ’s Redemption, we have begun a new phase in salvation history, just as the Israelites began a new phase in their own history when they entered the Promised Land.
  • We are persons reconciled to God whose sins are not counted against them.
  • This is part of the inner joy of every Christian: We are forgiven our sins and reconciled with the Father. This is part of the goodness of the Lord we “taste.”
Lk 15:1-3, 11-32
  • In the Parable of the Prodigal Son, the younger son can represent the tax collectors and sinners; the older son can stand for the Pharisees and scribes.
  • The father gives his younger son freedom, but the youth chooses license, to do whatever he wishes. That is what out-and-out sinners do.
  • The younger son gets a taste of sin and he likes it. But in the end it proves to be bitter misery.
  • Just as the prodigal son could come to his senses and return to his father, sinners can return to God. We return to the Father not simply because the Lord is kind and merciful, which he is, but because we find sin to be a curse.
  • We see the lavish goodness and generosity of God in the behavior of the father in treating the wayward son like royalty. God does not just punish the wicked – which would be fair: He forgives them and restores them to life.[1]
  • The older son is like the Pharisees and scribes, the ones who see themselves as loyal to God.
  • In the parable, there is no reproach in the father’s reply to the older son’s complaint.
My son, you are here with me always; everything I have is yours.
  • This shows the father’s lavish generosity to the older son.
  • But the older son is lacking two things.
    • First, he does not share his father’s joy in the objective truth that his brother has repented. Instead, the older brother just wants to see his younger brother punished and humiliated more.
    • Second, the older son lacks self-knowledge. He sees himself as one of the “good guys.” Doesn’t he have even a little of the prodigal son in him?
  • If we think of ourselves as good persons, do we really know ourselves? Don’t we need God’s mercy, too?

Doctrine: The Sacrament of Reconciliation

  • Confession is the means Our Lord has left for us to get rid of mortal sins committed after Baptism.
  • After Christ rose from the dead he appeared to his Apostles, breathed on them, and said,
Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained. (Jn 20:22-23)
  • Because a judgment is necessary, the Sacrament requires oral confession—otherwise, how would the minister of the sacrament know how to judge?
  • The truth is that some behavior is good and some is evil. Any freely chosen and conscious violation of one of the Ten Commandments in thought, word, or deed is a sin.
  • Some violations are gravely wrong: we call them mortal sins. Others are venial, or “pardonable.” We must get back into the habit of examining our behavior in light of this standard. This is called an examination of conscience. We should make one at the end of every day.
  • The priest will never reveal your confession to anyone under the Seal of the Confessional.

Practical Application: Making a Good Confession

  • The Church recommends “frequent confession” (CCC 1458). One idea is to go once a month, but more often if necessary.
  • To prepare, make a thorough examination of conscience if it has been a long time. Then each evening make a brief examination, looking over your day.
  • You might cryptically note your sins to keep track of them for confession.
  • A simple template for an evening daily examination is the three questions:
    • What went well? (Thank God for these.)
    • What did not go well? (Tell God you are sorry for these.)
    • What can I do better tomorrow? (Make a resolution to improve.)
  • Then, at the appointed time, actually go to Confession.
    • If you need courage, ask Our Lady for it and she will not disappoint you.
    • If you need to, review the procedure for Confession beforehand.
    • See yourself like the Prodigal Son, returning to the Father with real sorrow.
  • Tell the priest how long it has been since your last confession.
  • Then, clearly and concisely tell the priest your sins, beginning with the most serious, so as to get them out of the way.
    • Mortal sins must be confessed in kind and number, along with any circumstances which might affect the gravity of the sin.
    • It is good to confess venial sins, too. As the Catechism puts it, “Without being strictly necessary, confession of everyday faults (venial sins) is nevertheless strongly recommended by the Church. Indeed the regular confession of our venial sins helps us form our conscience, fight against evil tendencies, let ourselves be healed by Christ and progress in the life of the Spirit.” (1458)
  • Listen carefully to the advice the priest gives you, and then recite the act of contrition.
  • Afterwards, with thanksgiving, promptly do the penance the priest gives.
The Homiletic Directory offers the following Catechism points and themes for the Fourth Sunday of Lent:
  • CCC 1439, 1465, 1481, 1700, 2839: the prodigal son
  • CCC 207, 212, 214: God is faithful to his promises
  • CCC 1441, 1443: God pardons sin and restores the sinner to the community
  • CCC 982: the door of pardon is open to all who repent
  • CCC 1334: Israel’s daily bread was the fruit of the promised land

[1] Pope Benedict XVI, Angelus address, May 18, 2011.






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