This Sunday is the Fourth Sunday of Lent - also called Laetare Sunday. Laetare is a Latin word which means rejoice. The Entrance Antiphon in the Missal today begins: “Rejoice, Jerusalem, and all who love her. Be joyful…” Traditionally, this Sunday has a tone of joy to it in the midst of Lenten seriousness, somberness, fasting and repentance. On this Sunday flowers may be placed in church and rose vestments may be worn.
The Gospel passage today is very familiar: the parable of the Prodigal Son, or the Forgiving Father.Familiarity with a Gospel story may prevent us from paying close attention when hearing or reading it.In spite of our practically knowing it by heart, God is still able to speak to our heart in a new way as we reflect upon it. While on directed retreats, taking part in the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius, praying with an assigned Scripture passage, I have very often experienced God revealing something new to me, no matter how familiar the bible passage was.When doing the Spiritual Exercises, one engages in imagery and imagination.God works through one’s “theological” imagination to reveal himself more deeply to the person.The process is: one prays for a specific grace, reads the Scripture passage, places oneself in the reading by identifying with one of the characters, listens to how God is speaking by answering some questions or by journaling, and ends with a prayer of gratitude.In today’s Gospel, one of the graces we might pray for is the gift of forgiveness.We might identify with the prodigal son, the son who remained faithful, or the father.Placing ourselves in the parable as the prodigal son, we might ask: “What is the inheritance I received from my father, God the Father? How do I express gratitude for what I have been given?How have I used my inheritance over the years?For what do I need to be forgiven?Will I have the courage to arise and go to my Father?”Identifying with the “faithful” son, we may ask: “What inheritance have I received from my father, God the Father?How have I expressed my gratitude for his gifts?Striving to be faithful, do I think I must be favored above others, and when I am not, how do I react?What resentments have I harbored over the years?Will I have the honesty to arise and go to my Father?”Being drawn to the father, we may ask: “How do I show generosity and mercy to others?What have I let go of in my life in order to be a forgiving person?Will I have the humility to arise and go to my Father and ask for his continued grace to lead me in the ways of love and forgiveness?”In this “Year of Prayer,” consider reflecting on the Gospel in a new way this week.
Blessings on your Lenten Journey!
Sister Chris Gretka, CSJ