This week is the Fourth Sunday in Lent. The scriptures continue to show God’s people “on the way.” On our “pilgrimage of faith” we, too, move through Exodus and Passover times, times of plenty and times of desperation. In our world, suffering happens; we all sin, “miss the mark” and fail. Thankfully we also can move with Christ through that suffering, and even death, into fullness of life. We can receive mercy, be reconciled, and come back to our true home.
Luke’s gospel continually invites us to welcome the outsiders, and challenges us to look at that which we have shut out or turned away. If we’re not clinging so tightly to our habits, judgments and justifications, we’re able to welcome the new – renewed life, a changed perspective, a stranger or foreigner, an unexpected gift… and maybe even one who has abandoned or betrayed us, as in today’s Prodigal story. And it’s not just nice of us to do it: the stranger, the outsider, the new perspective, the reconciled relationships – bring new gifts. We’re diminished if we can’t receive them; we are invited to be open to be changed by all who come to join us (catechumens and candidates and immigrants and migrants and those who are different or just “outside” the group)... Recognizing the barriers between us and the other -- and that we need to drop them-- we look to Christ who “broke the barrier” (Paul) in the temple—and gave his message for all. On “the way” through suffering and death comes transformation, and new resurrection life can emerge. In your experiences of suffering, even when you feel stripped of all you’ve known, what gives you strength to go on? What opportunities for reconciliation, for mercy and forgiveness, do you recognize in your life now? What do you need to let go of in order to receive something new?