Homily for the Fourth Sunday of Lent

How do you like to get woken up in the morning?

When I was a boy, I shared a room with my three brothers.  I can remember my mom coming into my room, she would shake my leg to get me up.  For altar serving or hockey practice, that’s how it was done.   When my wife was growing up, her mom used to come in and gently scratch her back.  My roommate in college used an alarm clock as early as he could remember.

When we first had children, I thought initially we were going to have to wake them up every morning, but I was wrong.  As many of you know, there are a few ‘Commandments’ of early parenting, and one of I learned very quickly: ‘Don’t wake the baby.’

When the kids got to school, however, things changed.  You have to wake them up.  I remember the first time I had to wake up the girls.  I walked in, they were asleep, and I paused.  How was I going to do this?  How do they like to get woken up?

Some days it’s easier to get up than others.  But the bottom line is, just like fallow fields — we all have to wake up. Today’s readings are trying to do just that.

St. Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians begins, “Whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, the new things have come.”  To put this in context, Paul is speaking here to a group of Corinthians who believed they could achieve salvation through special or secret knowledge.  That through their fasting and prayer, they were solely responsible for setting things right.  But Paul wakes them up — and us as well — by reminding them that salvation and repentance — these are not our job.  Freedom and forgiveness are God’s gifts to us, not the other way around.  That’s how Paul woke the Corinthians up.

In the Gospel parable, both sons are woken up.  In explaining why the prodigal son returned, Luke tells us that “he came to his senses”.  Literally, Luke’s expression is translated: “he entered into himself.” With nowhere to go, the young man became aware of who he had become. In that same moment, he also remembered his father’s love and goodness, and knew of his need for repentance.  That’s how the younger son woke up.

But the elder son would have none of it, just as the Pharisees would not rejoice in the fact that Jesus was eating with sinners.    You can see why the older son would be mad, though, can’t you?  He wants to sleep, to keep love conditional.  He’s not ready to be woken up.  His father’s love, it’s too much for him.  That kind of love is too radical, too extreme.

In the end, of course, God is not the only one who wakes people up.  You do, too.  Even when you are having a bad day, even if the baby kept you up half the night, or if you are struggling financially, or have lost some one dear to you… your life in the Eucharist is important.  You wake people up.

It’s like how Christ taught in today’s parable.  Your insights, your compassion, your good intentions, become ours.  Your good mood becomes our good mood.  Your smile is our smile.  It’s meant to be shared. It’s meant for us.

And that can happen just about anywhere.  A wealthy father took his son on a journey to the country to show him what poverty was like.  He wanted to educate him, so he could serve the world.  They spent a day and a night on the farm of a very impoverished family, helping out.

When they got back, the father asked his son, “Well, what did you think?”

“Very good, Dad!”

“Really?’  The father paused.  “Didn’t you see how these people live?  How much help they needed?”

“Yeah, but did you notice we have a dog at home, and they have four.

We have a pool that reaches to the middle of the garden, they have a creek that has no end.

We have imported lamps in the garden, they have the stars.

Our patio reaches to the front yard, they have a whole horizon.”

When the little boy was finishing, his father was speechless.

His son added, “Thanks, Dad, for showing me how rich other people are!”

This Lenten season, people are waking up all around us. And your words, your example, your prayerful reflections are part of that.  Even on days like today, when maybe you would prefer to crawl under the covers for five more minutes.

We are called to sprout like new flowers, through prayer, people and places we never would have imagined.  Are you ready to join in?  That’s how God works.  That’s how God wakes us up.  So, be ready.  How will God wake you up today?


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