Lenten Sunday 4, Year C. 10 March.

If we apply last week’s challenge to turn aside in order to see, and made a genuine effort to put off a little more, then today’s

OLD TESTAMENT SCRIPTURE [JOSHUA 5.9a – 10 – 12] takes on a much richer meaning.

First of all, notice that we have finished with the Pentateuch

(first 5-books of the Old Testament), and we are, as it were, under new leadership. Everything has begun to change – grow and develop. Joshua, Moses’ successor, has appeared and the ‘hard’ days have come to an end. In addition, the people have arrived and are being left more and more to their own faith, resources and commitment. “I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you … they kept the Passover …the manna ceased … (they) ate the fruit of the land of Canaan.”

We need to recognise at the start of this fourth Lenten week that the time has arrived for us begin standing on our own. Now we must gather our resources and proceed with greater confidence to the celebration of Easter. Saint Paul confirms this in today’s

NEW TESTAMENT EXTRACT [2 CORINTHIANS 5: 17 – 21]. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold the new has come … Christ has reconciled us to himself … entrusting to us the message.”

We have been entrusted to

GO ON! Go on to Easter! In order to achieve this we need “to (eat) the produce of the land.” In other words now is the time to buildon what we have achieved – no matter how little that may be. WE HAVE TO MOVE OURSELVES FORWARD WITH COURAGE AND FAITH. Remember what Paul tells us today: that Christ is “not counting (our) trespasses against (us).” Forget about the failures and unkept resolutions. Eat the produce of the land, and build on whatever has been achieved.

Paul’s reading introduces us to the ongoing presence of Jesus Christ. In this regard it is interesting to make a mental note of the fact that the Old Testament name Joshua is actually

JESUS! The history of the people of Israel took a new and exciting turn under Joshua-Jesus. So, too, as Paul explains this Sunday, the history of the new People of God entered an exciting phase under Jesus-Joshua. In a very real way Joshua is a figure of Jesus, and Jesus is a Joshua leading his people into a new land. The people Joshua-Jesus led had every possibility laid open before them. The people that Jesus-Joshua leads, all of us, have the same possibilities available.

This fact is given a powerful application in

TODAY’S GOSPEL READING [LUKE 15: 1 – 3. 11 – 32]. Before we reflect any further, it is vital to accept where, at this stage of the proceedings, we are being led! Where? Well, it is to Easter via Calvary. Here, recall last week’s reflection in which reference was made to the need for us to put off. The Lord had to put off on his way to Easter. It was not easy for him to do so (recall his cries of anguish in Gethsemane and on the Cross itself). Do not interpret this as meaning that bodily suffering must be sought after. The lesson to be learnt is much simpler than this – it is the lesson of living out in the present the difficult (sometimespainful) challenges, situations, and circumstances of our lives. No more, no less! In addition, we are challenged to take the second half of Lent as seriously as possible.

Reflect on some powerful words of a contemporary spiritual author: “to arrive at Easter Sunday without having first travelled by way of Holy Thursday and Good Friday could lead to a very false destination. To try to befriend only the Risen Lord … could be a dangerous liaison … to hear only the post-resurrection words .. would be to miss the full story … there are no ‘byes’ to the final victory.”

{DANIEL J O’LEARY: Passion for the Possible: Columba Press: Page 122}(emphasis my own)

Is this an exaggeration? Find the answer in today’s Gospel. The younger son,

“when he came to himself,” was able to experience resurrection. He could have, easily, allowed his painful experience to destroy him but he made a decision to return home – and there, as today’s Psalm [34 or 33]tells us, he tasted and saw that the Lord was good. The personal experience of his suffering brought him to his senses. He, unlike his elder brother, was never bitter or filled with resentment. Rather, he arose and went to his father. There we are told that he had been dead, and (now) is alive.

The elder son had arrived at a false destination. Instead of putting off he had put onresentment and jealousy. He, too, in point of fact, was dead and refused to come to life. He had missed the full story!

The same should not happen to us.