4th Sunday of Lent
Year C

Ambassadors For Christ

From the 1630's on, French Jesuit missionaries were spending themselves among the Indians of Eastern Canada. Constant fear weighed on the minds of these natives - the fear of destruction by the powerful Iroquois Indians of Central New York State, who were bent on annihilating them. The missionaries themselves were undaunted. Indeed, part of their program was to bring the Gospel to the Iroquois themselves.

In 1655, the Jesuits had their first chance to penetrate the country of the Iroquois "Five Nations". During a three year period of peace, three Jesuit "blackrobes" came down with a number of Frenchmen to Gaventaa, the hub-town of the Iroquois near the present Syracuse, New York. From that point, the three priests moved out east and west on an initial survey of the Five Nations. Father Joseph Chaumonot went to visit the Senecas, the Westernmost Iroquois nation. Their capital village was near Victor, New York.

An able orator in the Iroquois tongue, Father Chaumonot persuaded the Indian leaders to gather in council and hear his message. In keeping with tribal etiquette, he first distributed gifts among the councillors. Then he told them in forthright terms why he had come and why they should heed him.

"I give myself with these presents" he said, "as a warranty of the truths that I preach to you. And if my life, which I devote to you, does not seem sufficient to you, I offer you those of so many French who have followed me to Gaventaa to bear witness to the Faith that I preach to you… Will you be simple enough to think that so clever a band of men would have left that native country - the finest and most agreeable in the world - and endured such fatigue in order to bring falsehood so far?"

St. Paul tells us we who are baptized are all "ambassadors of Christ" (2 Cor. 5:20. Today's second reading). All of us, pope, bishops, priests, deacons, religious, lay persons as witnesses, must do our part to carry to men God's message of reconciliation to Him and neighbor - a reconciliation purchased by Christ through His death. Even if it costs us our own lives? Yes. It is that important.

-Father Robert F. McNamara

Q259: We have heard the story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) so many times that it is easy to wander off… Is there something in it to keep our attention?

Yes indeed! You can never plumb the depths of scripture; there is always something new to discover – and usually it is a discovery about yourself! Today, instead of looking at the younger son or the elder son, or the father, focus your attention on the audience of Jesus. To do that, you need to go back to Luke 15:1. There you will discover that the Scribes and Pharisees are murmuring, as usual, about the “company” Jesus keeps. They are objecting to the welcome he gives to “tax collectors” and “sinners.” So Jesus tells them three stories, including today’s.

The “insider” group is saying, you have to stick to our rituals and do all of the “religious” things that we do. Otherwise you are in the “outsider” group. But Jesus holds up a different standard. He says that it is your “heart” that is the key. If you turn to the Lord and seek forgiveness, then it will be yours, regardless of where you have been or what you have done. The Father’s love is unconditional. Just “come home,” repent, and change your life away from all wrongdoing.

Now usually we focus on identifying ourselves with one of the sons, or even with the father, in the gospel story. But did you ever consider this: in what ways are you like the Scribes and Pharisees? In what ways are you like the hated “tax collectors” who engage in actions considered to be anti-religious? In what ways are you like those considered to be sinners, who willfully violate God’s laws? And how would you feel if Jesus opened his arms to you and offered you unconditional love and a safe home?

Know Your Catechism! We must never attempt to ration God’s mercy, because he is a “prodigal” lover (CCC #2845). Nor should we ever judge another as unworthy of our forgiveness or of God’s mercy, because all love is unconditional (CCC #2843,44). When you frown at the actions and words of the Scribes and Pharisees as you read scripture, are you really frowning at yourself? Lent is a good time to adjust our attitudes and actions, with a good examination of conscience.

Everything Old is New Again

Can you imagine what it was like for Joshua and the Israelites to cross the Jordan and take possession of the land God had promised them? It was the beginning of a whole new way of life–no more wandering, no more manna, a homeland that provided all their needs. But this new world would raise new challenges that could only be met by trust in God's love and care. St. Paul tells us that Christ's death and resurrection bring forth a new creation, a new relationship between God and this world. We become part of this new creation through Baptism and the Eucharist, but we face a new challenge: to proclaiming this reconciliation to others by word and deed. Jesus reminds us that we need to trust in God's love and mercy if we are to meet the challenge of this new relationship with God. The prodigal son trusted in the love of his father and sought reconciliation. Can the other son loyalty to his father enable him to reconcile with his brother?

Loving Father, let us respond to your reconciling love for us by extending our love to all our brothers and sisters.