As we reach the mid point of Lent with this Fourth Sunday of Lent, we pause to celebrate what is known as Laetare Sunday. Laetare is the Latin word for "rejoice" and the opening words of the Entrance Antiphon today are "rejoice, Jerusalem, and all who love her, exult and be satisfied at her consoling breast." But the theme quickly changes from rejoicing to repenting and reconciliation. The Lord invites us to switch to a mentality based on mercifulness. It is normal to rejoice over good and take delight in it. It is also normal to rejoice if one who is lost wants to come to life again and comes to ask the Lord to restore to it what it has squandered.
In today's Gospel Jesus bears witness to the Father of mercy. In his mercifulness Christ does not appear a protector or an accomplice. We do not detect any trace of superiority or domination in his perfection. Nor do we detect any degree of complicity with evil in his tender mercy for the sinner. He is, and chooses to be fully at one with the tenderness and mercy of the Father.
As the Gospel story unfolds. We feel for the father whose son had formerly been lost and has been found. It is the spirit of reconciliation which reflects the mercy and love and we see in him the love and mercy which Christ had for the sinner. But what about the elder son? Are there times in the dynamics of a family that we have felt resentment for things that happened in our own families? (You've heard it said that where there’s a will there's a relative.). Have we been able to summon the mercy which the father in the parable has done? When we fail to realize that, the farther we are from understanding God's mercy. Let us ask him to give us clear insight into ourselves so that we may be able to live the mystery of reconciliation embodied in the Eucharistic sacrifice.
Fr John R. Mulvehill