BROKEN AFFINITIES; RESTORED RELATIONSHIPSFourth Sunday of Lent (Year C): March 6, 2016 (English)
[BREAKING THE BREAD OF GOD’S WORD]
4th Sunday of Lent Year C
March 6, 2016
BROKEN AFFINITIES; RESTORED RELATIONSHIPS
Last week, if you remember, we talked about the overflowing mercy and love of God. That love, we said, was tender and true. But the same love was equally tough. It was expected to bear fruit. It was a love not meant to be verbally acclaimed, but concretely experienced, by both the lover and the beloved.
This Sunday, fourth in the season of Lent, we seem to have a sequel. We are told in the first reading: “Today, I have removed the reproach of Egypt from you.” The chosen people, we are further told, ate no longer free but boring manna, but from the “produce of the land in the form of unleavened cakes and parched grain.”
The people’s brokenness was nourished back to wholeness. What was old and shameful was replaced by something new and wonderful. This much, St. Paul assures us now in the second reading: “Whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come.”
We all appreciate anything new … or anything restored. Many of us desire new cellphones, and new gadgets. That includes me, by the way, for I have a new handycam to shoot this video reflection.
Back in the day, there were not too many gadgets. Neither were there too many clothes available. Signature apparel and branded clothings were not yet the craze the world over. Toys were often hand-me-down items, or recycled goods from old, usable raw materials. But people were creative. Old, used clothes that no longer fitted growing boys and girls were never thrown away. No … they were altered; they were restyled, re-stitched and redone, not just recycled. They were renewed or otherwise restored to passable newness. They were given a fresh lease on life, figuratively and literally speaking.
What would otherwise have been reduced to rags were restored to relative newness.
This, my dear fellow believer, is the story of all of us, born of Adam and Eve. We were worse off than rags when we sinned. Sinners that we all are, we needed Someone from above to restore us to spiritual health and reform us to wholeness and greatness. St. Paul reminds us of this Someone who came down to lift us up: “For our sake he made him to be sin who did not know sin so that we we might become the righteousness of God in him.”
In life, a misstep, a mistake, a false move can sometimes bring us to grief. It can make us older for our years. It can make us feel down and out, beaten, and battered deep inside. Sin has a way of taking away youthfulness and inner serenity in our personal lives.
This is what happened to the younger son of the parable of today. He was more than just brash. He was cheeky. He was as ambitious and as independent as he was imprudent. Young in years, he soon felt old and dry as a withered branch cut off from the tree. You see, this is what sinful pride can do to an otherwise healthy scion. It soon withers and wrinkles to a crisp and dies.
But the young, “old” man, who may have broken his affinities with family, never actually rended his relationship, kept alive by the life-sustaining love of a doting, loving father. Old rags never lose their worth and usefulness for people who care and love and believe in them. The old man who never for a minute waned in his love for his “bunso” – his younger son – believed in his heart that even shattered affinities can be restored back to lasting and loving relationships.
The old man kept waiting. The young man kept on pondering on what he had done. He realized he had unilaterally sundered all affinities. But there was something in him that was still salvageable. There remained something in the younger son that could be nourished back to health, much like rags could be fashioned to become new garments. He held on to a relationship. He called on his Dad as “Father.”
And so he decided. He went back home and said: “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as you would treat one of your hired workers.”
He repented. Contemporary language would refer to his being rehabilitated. But I beg to disagree. He was not just rehabilitated, but was restored totally to newness, to health and total well-being. The Father whom he still called “father” did not recriminate, did not ask him difficult questions and made his homecoming more difficult that it had already been. Sandals, fresh clothes, a ring on his finger and food and celebrations speak not of rehabilitation, but of prodigality of a father’s love.
Come now, dear friends and fellow believers. Taste and see the goodness of the Lord! The son – who now represents sinful and selfish us – may be very good at breaking affinities, but God, Father and merciful Lord, is, and has always, and will always be better at restoring relationships and nurturing us to full spiritual health.
Father of mercy, thank you for your love. Thank you for restoring us to total newness in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.