4th Sunday of Lent (C) 2019

St Paul. ’So whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come. And all this is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and given us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting their trespasses against them and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.’
St John. ‘There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love. We love because God first loved us.’
There is no room for fear in my response to God. I fear someone I do not like, someone I do not trust, someone I do not believe. I fear someone who is unpredictable, someone who is volatile, someone who is undependable. I fear someone who is selfish, greedy, self-centred.
How insulting it is to fear God!!!
Luke. ‘Coming to his senses he thought, How many of my father’s hired workers have more than enough food to eat, but here am I, dying from hunger. I shall get up and go to my father and I shall say to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as you would treat one of your hired workers.’
Is this true repentance or mere self-interest?
And then we read; ‘While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him.’
The father does not look for words of repentance or explanations. Obviously the Father has forgiven him long before it occurred to the son to return.
So the message of the Gospel is that God has made the first move. God has loved me first. God has forgiven me first even before I have known God or repented.
Luke; ‘So I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven; hence, she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.’ She loved greatly because she realised that her God had already forgiven her and already loved her. God made the first move and her response was to love greatly.
The big question is how do I respond to God?
A bigger question is why do I not realise how totally and unreservedly good my God is?
Religion is my response of gratitude to God for the great things God has done for me.
I am forgiven by my God long before I repent, long before I go to confession.
I am a child of God long before I am Baptised. I am one with Christ long before I receive Holy Communion. Receiving the Sacraments is the official acknowledgment and celebration of, and thanksgiving for, what already exists.
God always makes the first move. I respond.
To quote St Paul in Ephesians; “God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, brought us to life with Christ (by grace you have been saved) raised us up with him, and seated us with him in the heavens in Christ Jesus,
that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so no one may boast.”
I have been created by My God with the gift of free will. I can accept the gifts of God – salvation, resurrection and Eternal Life with God with a heart full of gratitude or I can refuse the gifts of God and live my life simply as a rational animal.
So where do good works come in? Good works – being forgiving, being tolerant, being generous, being helpful, being compassionate, being loving, joining the parish community in its acts of worship, spending time in prayer etc. flow from, are the offspring of, result from my gratitude and joy for having received God’s free gifts. As well as wanting to continually thank my God I also want my family, relatives, friends and neighbours to share in this great sense of peace, joy and gratitude to God.