The Joy of Reconciliation
4th Sunday of Lent March 14, 2010

Antonio P. Pueyo
Reproduced with Permission

A few years ago, I was invited to a reconciliation meal. It was a case of neighbors who became alienated from each other because of the circumstances of war. Although they have lived together peacefully for many years, a situation came where an armed rebel group sought shelter overnight in a neighbor’s house. The other party belonged to local unit of an armed self-defense group. In the early dawn when both sides noticed the other’s presence, fighting broke out. People were killed on both sides. As a result, the neighbors avoided one another for many years. With the initiative of a peace-making group, dialogues were started. That’s the reason for the meal. For the first time, both sides agreed to eat together again. As St.Paul’s letter in the second reading says, they were transformed from enemies into friends (2 Cor. 5:20).

Todayis “Laetare Sunday” or day of rejoicing. The readings anticipate the joy of Easter and the happiness that reconciliation brings. The first reading from the book of Joshua describes the gladness of Israel as they settled in the the new land promised to them. From a wandering people who depended on manna for food, they now become growers of their own food in their own land (Josh. 5:10-12). In the second reading, St. Paul writes to the Corinthians about the joy of reconciliation. With him as an example, he describes life before Christ and life in Christ. To be in Christ is to be reconciled to the Father and to one another, “All this is done by God, who through Christ changed us from enemies into his friends and gave us the task of making others his friends also” (2 Cor. 5:18). The gospel relates the beautiful story of the Forgiving Father (or the story of the Prodigal Son).

Only one who has experienced reconciliation with another person, can fully appreciate what reconciliation means. The road to reconciliation goes through some stages. Traditionally, Catholic catechism speaks of contrition, confession, and satisfaction (reparation). It takes a while to come to one’s senses, admit one’s sins, and be sorry for them. (Lk. 15:17). It is even harder to make the first step to reconcile with the one we have offended by confessing our sins. The prodigal son was practicing his confession even before he went home to his father, “I will get up and go to my father and say, ‘Father, I have sinned against God and against you.’ (v. 18)” He was willing to take the punishment due to his sins and to do penance for them, “I am no longer fit to be called your son; treat me as one of your hired workers” (v.19). Imagine his surprise and joy when his father ran to meet him and welcomed him with open arms.

Although this story is traditionally known as the parable of the prodigal son, it is really about the Generous Father. The son is prodigal by senselessly spending all his inherited wealth. The father may be called prodigal with his love and mercy. This is also the story of the Prodigal Father.

The season of Lent is a time of reconciliation. It is a time of contrition, confession, and reparation. The road to reconciliation is a hard road to take. However, even before we take the first step towards the Father, He is already there ready to welcome us. Even as we attempt to say our words of confession, He already forgives us. Even as we accept the punishment due to us, He is there to put the finest robe on our shoulders and rings on our fingers. The Father is so glad to have his son back.

What are we waiting for? Let us go home to the Father.

Action starter: Take the first step toward reconciliation.