Fourth Sunday of Lent - 31st March, 2019

Liturgical Reflection

LK 15:1–3, 11–32


The central figure of this story is the unconditionally loving father. Perhaps we call it the story of the prodigal son because the prodigal is every one of us, to a greater or lesser degree. Perhaps the self-consciously dutiful older brother represents one side of many of us too.

Today, I am not going to follow the advice to “preach about God and preach about ten minutes.” I am going to preach about the world we live in. I am going to tell the story of an encounter with the self-consciously dutiful brother in a very different context.

At St Boniface’s, Erehwon* faithful parishioners sat with darkened faces. It was the Sunday after the massacre of Muslims at prayer in Christchurch, but not a word had been said about this matter in the homily. Instead, parishioners were lectured about how they should approach the task of voting in the state election. They must read a booklet issued by the local Catholic hierarchy about the parties’ positions on a narrow range of issues—abortion, euthanasia, the seal of the Confessional, and the attempts of school authorities to build a culture in which children are not bullied over gender issues. They must realize that their religion is under threat, take Jesus into the polling booth with them, and vote accordingly.

The self-consciously dutiful older brother—the institutionalized Church that spoke through Father Ydobemos—had failed to realize that today it wasn’t about him. The disquiet that stalked the congregation was not about any perceived threat to the parishioners’ religion, which they innocently assumed to be Christianity.

 

It was about the victims of the massacre, those grieving for them, the empowerment of hatred and the fact that the killer was Australian, and also about Muslim brothers and sisters living in fear not only in New Zealand but also in our own country.

Who is this Jesus whom we should invite into polling booths with us? We know He had some reservations about the religious authorities of His day, and that He created the character of the Samaritan whose love of neighbour put Levite and priest to shame. He valued the feeding of the hungry, the welcoming of strangers, and compassionate outreach to the sick and the imprisoned.

Our religion will indeed be threatened if our pastors fail to stand up for Jesus and apply His teachings in the face of vicious hatred.

H.D.

* “Nowhere” backwards—the title of a book by Samuel Butler.