4th Sunday of Lent Year C
March 10, 2013


The first reading and the responsorial psalm both have to do with the image of eating, celebrating, or partaking of food together with others. The second reading, though not even remotely related to eating and sharing of food, does give us the reason to eat together and celebrate – the fact that we have become new creatures in Christ, that is, reconciled to God in Him. The Gospel, for its part, although focused on the idea of forgiveness, does refer, too, indirectly to a banquet given by the forgiving father upon return of the younger lost son, who chose to follow a different path, until he got back to his senses and returned.

This is a rich Sunday, readings wise, and we preachers are hard pressed to make of all three separate readings a meaningful totality. But quite apart from all this, today is Laetare Sunday, meaning “rejoice,” for laetare is the first word in today’s entrance antiphon.

Well, who does not enjoy eating? And who does not eat or share a meal with others when one is rejoicing? We Filipinos know this very well. Now that graduations are just around the corner, and many people will be teary-eyed receiving their hard-earned diplomas, and as they sing their Alma Mater songs, celebrations are not far from everybody’s mind. When we rejoice, we eat. And we eat with others when we want to share that joy.

I can empathize somewhat with the father in today’s parable of the prodigal son, or the prodigal father, or the resentful elder brother. The father had a valid reason to put up a feast. His son was gone, and was now suddenly back home. The feasting may have been overblown, but the elder brother who resented it all acted very much like … well, a party pooper. He didn’t like it one bit. And one who nurses a heart ache, does not want an additional tummy ache, I guess. He who could not ingest a good deed done to someone “unworthy” of it, probably cannot digest rich food either. When one is eaten up by resentment, I guess, one cannot really eat to his heart’s delight!

The Israelites under Joshua had every reason to rejoice and “eat of the produce of the land,” no … not manna anymore, but real food! We heard it from the mouth of the Lord Himself: “Today, I have removed the reproach of Egypt from you.” St. Paul was more theological rather than graphic and earthy … We rejoice because “whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come.”

Joshua, the Jews of old, Paul, the younger son, the forgiving father, why, even the elder son for all his resentment and initial unhappiness … they all had reasons to be rejoicing. They all had valid reasons to share the food of thanksiving and joy.

The question now has nothing to do with them. The big question now is on our shoulders. Do we have reasons to rejoice? Do we find enough motivation to eat together in joy and fellowship, and share this Eucharistic sacrifice and meal? What brought you here to Mass today? Do you really have reason to rejoice, as the entrance antiphon tells us: “Rejoice Jerusalem! Be glad for her, you who love her.”

Let me tell you what can be blocks to rejoicing and even possible causes of indigestion or lack of appetite to share food with others …

Well, the first in the list is what the younger son did … he sinned and detached himself from the family, from his father, from his elder brother. But wait … don’t you think there is a second? Yes … and it has to do with a heart unwilling, unready to soften up and loosen up a little. The elder brother was too focused on the brother’s wrongdoings, and even saw malice in the father’s compassion and abounding forgiveness.

And yes … there is a third … our unwillingness and incapacity to see the good unfolding, the good emerging even from someone whom we have judged and condemned to be a prodigal brother or sister – the refusal to see what good possibly could be done even by a sinful person.

So may I suggest that we quit being such miserable party poopers?

Maybe we need to change the lenses of our camera. We are too fond of using macro lenses that make us see only from up close. We need a wide-angle lens to help us see the bigger panorama, the bigger canvas, the bigger picture.

And since I love to eat myself, that bigger picture I see, is a banquet where the best dish, the best entrée, if you will, is that which God Himself provides – no other than Himself. Like in this Mass, His own body and blood, for us to share in peace, fellowship, and joy.

Taste and see the goodness of the Lord!