We meet the 1st and 3rd Thursdays at St. Gertrude's Ministry Center
(6214 N. Glenwood), beginning at 8:00 p.m. Folks are welcome to join us at anytime.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A Lenten Reflection

A Lenten Reflection on the Prodigal Son (March 14, 2010; Cycle C)

(I offered this as part of Loyola University Chicago's Online Lenten Reflections - a little late, but better late than never!)

The readings today offer us a striking reminder of both the solemnity but also the promise of the Lenten journey toward Easter. Traditionally, Lent is a time for fasting and penance: We are called to be more intentional about our own thoughts and actions, our prayer, and our relationships. Through our fasting, a simplifying of our desires and purging ourselves from the need to consume, we can enter into a place where we can more clearly see ourselves, those in need, and God. In penance, we are called to recognize and confess our sins. But our penance is not enough to simply recount the ways which we have "sinned against God or neighbor." Both Greek and Hebrew understandings of sin were not concerned with doing evil - very few of us are guilty of committing such sins. The biblical notion of sin is first and foremost concerned with how one "misses the mark." It is not only what we do, but also what we fail to do, that must be accounted for in our penance. So it is from this Lenten place of fasting and penance, we are invited into a renewed relationship with the Resurrected God - but not without ourselves undergoing a sort of paschal transformation in our own lives that stays with us through Easter and, hopefully, beyond.

Metanoia is a Greek word conveying transformation or conversion. But such a transformation is not simply changing one's opinion or picking up a new habit. It is a total, radical changing of one's self into something new. As Paul writes, "the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come" (2 Cor 5:17). It is the transformation of the prodigal son from today's Gospel who, recognizing the ways he has squandered the gifts from his father, undergoes a change of heart - begging forgiveness and mercy for his misgivings and finding compassion and love in return. Lent is a time for us to ask ourselves: "In what way have I acted like the young man and are in need of metanoia?" "In what ways have I missed the mark by failing to serve others, particularly those in need - the orphan, the widow, the poor?" "In what ways have I chosen to put my life, my trust and my faith in the service of things other than the living, all-loving, compassionate God (such as economic security, a certain career, an addiction or even too narrow a view of God)?"

We are called to be an Easter people: a people of celebration, rejoicing and life. But in the midst of so much suffering in the world - ecological destruction, torture, war, racism and sexism, extreme poverty - we are in desperate need of the welcoming embrace of a parent welcoming home a long lost child. We are in desperate need of Resurrection. We need to hear the words of the father to the judgemental son: "But now we must celebrate and rejoice, because your brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found" (Lk 15:32). So during the time of Lent, may our fasting bring us closer to the cries of the crucified poor and open our lives to them and may our penance offer us a metanoia that peacefully rests in the God of justice and celebration.

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