4th Sunday of Lent | March 5/6, 2016
Fr. Brian Zumbrum’s homilies and reflections are posted weekly at Leaven in the World. To see the archive of all his posts, just click here: Salesian Sermons
PROTIP: You can take a look at the Sunday readings here. This homily focuses on the first and Gospel readings.
So a few days ago on the radio I heard this really great story about a little girl and her father,
The little girl had learned that her school was going to have a costume day. She got super-excited because she had the perfect costume. She was going to dress up as Batman. She bought the costume and spent each evening twirling her cape in the mirror.
But as the day got closer, she began to have some doubts. Would other kids make fun of her? Would she look ridiculous?
She began to question whether or not she should even dress up.
And that is where dad stepped in. See this father had something special up his sleeve. A full Superman Suit, including the spandex tights.
If she was going to look foolish, well then they would both be fools together.
And so they walked to school, clad in Superhero costumes for all the world to see.
Now, something tells me that the Father in our Gospel for today definitely would have done the same.
For the Father in this parable seemingly has no qualm about looking like a fool for the sake of his children.
Let’s be honest. What man in this time would allow his son to speak to him that way?
For a son to demand his inheritance was the equivalent of asking his father to drop dead. To allow such disrespect was to admit weakness, not only to his family but to the entire village. What the Father should have done is disown his son.
But the Father does the exact opposite. Not only does he receive this terrible insult that must have cut him deeply, but he complies with the request, giving ½ of his property to his ungrateful, reckless son.
As the story unfolds, another opportunity presents itself to the Father to redeem himself and demonstrate the fact that he is the one in charge. When his son comes back with his tail between his legs, the Father should have treated him as a servant. For he no longer deserved the title of son.
But once again, the Father does the exact opposite. Not only does he welcome the son back. But he initiates the encounter. He goes and runs to meet his son.
Now, have any of you ever tried to run in a tunic. It is not the easiest thing in the world. You need to literally hike up the tunic, exposing yourself to the entire world as you run. No self-respecting Father would have embarrassed himself in this way.
But the Father does. He embraces the son, showering him with wealth and prestige which he had not earned and did not deserve.
But the Father is not done.
For now you have the eldest son pouting at the unfairness of it all.
Now, the eldest son was simply doing what was expected of him as a son. No one would have commended him for simply doing his duty. He had not done anything special in the eyes of his Jewish contemporaries. So the fact that he was whining about his Father’s decisions was completely unacceptable. He had no right to question his Father. He must simply obey or risk the fate of being cast out himself.
But once again, the Father stuns all expectations by reasoning with his slighted offspring. He was not going to force anyone to do his will, even though that was always within his power.
Instead, he would risk getting hurt for the sake of his children.
He would risk being misunderstood and being viewed as a fool for the sake of his children.
My friends, our God continues to risk looking like a fool for our sakes.
For he chooses to love each of us . . .
Even when we are ungrateful or self-centered.
Even when we wander away from our God or reject his love.
Even when feel like we have messed everything up.
Even when we are self-righteous and judgmental.
Though we have not earned it, our God is still seeking after us. Running towards us. Embracing us. Wiping away every tear. Joining in every laugh. Lifting us up when we fall. Leading us forward when we are afraid. Forgiving our every fault and failure. Cherishing our every breath.
And then sending us forth to be fools for one another.
Inviting us to risk all the world holds dear so that another person may experience that same unconditional love that we are so freely given.
To risk our popularity by sitting with the outcast or to risk the backlash that comes with speaking the truth to those who may not wish to hear it.
To risk our comfort zone by reaching out to someone different from us to see the world through their eyes or to risk getting hurt by opening ourselves up to another who may choose to reject the gift we freely give.
And in taking these risks. In daring to look like a fool.
We too may just become someone’s superhero this day. May God be Praised.