Homily 4th Sunday of Lent Year C - Laetare

Homily (Sermon) - Laetare – Rejoice – Be Joyful – Laetare my brothers and sisters

The Readings for Sunday 9th March 2013 or Forth Sunday of Lent Year C:
Old Joshua 5:9-12

Psalm Psalm 33:2-7  Response v9
New 2 Corinthians 5:17-21
Gospel Luke 15:1-3, 11-32

[These readings can be found at www.universalis.com for the next few weeks.]

Laetare – Rejoice – Be Joyful – Laetare my brothers and sisters.

We are half way through the 40 days of Lent, over halfway in fact. We have only 18 more Lenten days before Easter, and today we look forward to the joy of Easter, the joy of our redemption, today we share in the constant joy of heaven. That's why today is Laetare Sunday, Laetare means “be joyful” or “rejoice”. And that's why today's readings are all about the joy of redemption.

In our first reading we hear about the Jewish nation, God's chosen people, as they ate their first meal in the promised land after 40 years of wandering. Our 40 days of Lenten prayer, penitence, almsgiving and self-denial reflect the experiences they had in the wilderness. Can you imagine the joy they felt hearing the words God had spoken to their leader Joshua, “Today I have taken the shame of Egypt away from you.” The Lord had promised them a land and here they were eating the produce of that land in the presence of the Lord. Now imagine the joy we will feel in a few short weeks as we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus, the Christ, on Easter Sunday, and know that through his death and resurrection we have been reconciled to God.

This joy is what Paul is writing to the Corinthians about, and the message Paul had for the Corinthians is also for us today. We have been redeemed, reconciled, saved, forgiven, washed clean. We, through the death of the sinless one for us, can sit down with God at the banquet in heaven. We know this, as the Corinthians knew this, but many in our world, as many in their world don't know this. Paul challenges us, he challenges you, he challenges me, to be ambassadors for Christ. An ambassador is someone who speaks for someone else, you now speak for Christ. It's a little scary isn't when you think about it. So maybe, a challenge for us all this week is to take this Sunday's message to the world, this week in whatever you do, Be Joyful. It may surprise you who notices, and if someone notices you may just have helped Jesus reconcile one more person, one more lost daughter or lost son returning to the father.

Which leads us to our gospel today, the parable of the prodigal son. I am sure we all know this one very well. The story of two sons and a father. The younger son takes his inheritance and leaves for a far a away land, there he has a really great time for a while, spends all his money, then falls on hard times. He falls so low that a pig is more respected than he is. At this point he realises his mistakes and is sorry. He returns home and is welcomed with open arms, not as a servant or slave which is all he feels he deserves but as a son, come back to life. What joy would he have felt as his father hugged him. That joy is ours as well, as we bring our less than perfect lives to this church, to the Eucharist we are about to share, we encounter our father. He is giving us a huge of hug, putting a robe about us and a ring on our finger.

But maybe like me you heard that parable today and thought, I always feel sorry for the older brother. He works hard for his father, always the good son, the younger brother gets a calf to celebrate his return the older brother gets nothing not even a small goat. But then we hear, as he angrily sulks, his father comes out to talk to him. “My son, you are with me always and all I have is yours.” In that moment he realises the love his father has for him and the love he has for his father. That joy too is ours, as Christians we work for our God, He is with us always, all He has is our. In fact He loves us so much He even gave us the life of his only son.

Now think of the Fathers story. You have two sons you love, one makes some mistakes with his life and is separated from you. You look for him every day and hope he will return. Then after a long time, far across the fields you see him returning. The joy of today is not just ours, it's a joy our God shares with us. And as Paul told us we are now ambassadors of that joy. It's time to take it out into the world.

Finally I want to talk about today's psalm. Father has often talked about the psalms and how wonderful they are and the value in reading them. He has often encouraged us to take the psalm home and read it each evening before we go to bed. Today's is a joyous psalm, a psalm of praise, so I have a different suggestion for you this week. Take the psalm home and read it each morning before you leave the house, let it fill you with joy, then take the joy of the prodigal son, the joy of his older brother, the joy of the people of Israel and the joy of your father out into the world.

Laetare – Rejoice – Be Joyful – Laetare my brothers and sisters.

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