4th Sunday of Lent, Year C, 27 March 2022
by Charles SOMDA, SJ, Program Coordinator at Jesuit Worldwide Learning – Higher Education at the Margins
What meaning can we give to mercy and reconciliation in a world torn apart by hatred and war?
Today’s texts give us some guidelines to follow. For us, two places of understanding of God’s mercy emerge: at the personal level and at the community level.
1. In the first reading from Joshua 5:9a, 10-12, God’s mercy removes the dishonour of a whole people who have been humiliated by slavery, the loss of their right to self-determination. God gives his people a land, a place to live on earth where they will feel free and prosperous. This prosperity of the people is already manifested in the fact that the sons of Israel reap and eat the fruits of this now acquired Promised Land. God’s mercy is freedom and life for oppressed people. Today there are so many oppressed peoples living without land, forced to migrate because of wars and the harmful effects of climate change. May the Lord be sensitive to their plight, so that they too may taste and see how good the Lord is? (cf. Ps 33)
2. Moreover, God’s mercy reconciles us to him through Christ. Belonging to Christ is necessary to be renewed and reconciled. To belong is to feel part of a body. This feeling touches a personal consciousness that finds its meaning in a whole. This found meaning makes the person proud to belong to a body where he/she is accepted despite his/her flaws and limitations. The community becomes the place where God’s mercy is experienced, which renews us and gives meaning to our lives. The strength of this experience of God’s mercy in Christ makes us ambassadors, that is, witnesses of God’s love in the world of our time. This office is assumed by our ability to love and serve others in our daily lives, so that they too may taste and see how good the Lord is (cf. Ps 33). Our mission is to reconcile the men and women of our torn apart societies where hearts are broken and far from Christ. This call of St. Paul must resound more loudly: “We ask in the name of Christ, let yourselves be reconciled to God. God’s grace is always available, and only his mercy can make us right.
3. The Gospel of St. Luke (Lk 15:1-3, 11-32) allows us to grasp God’s mercy on a personal level through the character of the prodigal son. God is very attentive to the needs of all his children. He does not take his eyes off even those who deliberately stray from his face. His mercy is ‘care and concern for all’. The prodigal son thought he could flourish away from his father. He thought that his inheritance made him rich enough to live safely in a permissive world. The experience of lack enabled him to appreciate the value of his father’s love. The journey back to the father is a conversion process. In this conversion, he simply wanted to return to the source of the goods he needed to live. He wanted to be treated as a simple worker. But he discovers that he is always welcomed as a beloved son. God never ceases to love us even when we distance ourselves from Him. Rather, it is we who become indifferent to His love. The very attitude of the elder son who stayed behind shows that he is physically close to his father but indifferent to his love, since he does not feel loved! His frustration is shown by his inability to rejoice in his little brother’s return. Am I really sensitive to God’s love for me and the other person? If so, it will be difficult for me to experience the depth of God’s mercy, to finally be reconciled with myself, with God and with other human beings. Personal work is necessary for the results to be visible at the community level. One thing is certain, our societies will never know peace and joy without openness to God’s mercy-love. Joy and peace of heart come from a deep experience of the Lord’s love that lifts us out of our misery: His mercy!
Charles SOMDA, SJ