“Reconciliation” : Fr Dan Devitt SDB, Limerick, Ireland

“Reconciliation”                                                                                    4 Sunday of Lent

We are now half-way through Lent and this Sunday could be called Reconciliation Sunday because reconciliation is the theme of to-day’s readings.

The Passover celebration described in the excerpt from Joshua is a particularly memorable one. After being rescued from Egypt, the Israelites had long wandered through the desert. They had often rebelled against God. But now as they entered the Promised Land they wanted to be reconciled. They wanted to renew and re-dedicate the nation to God’s covenant.

The story of wandering far in order ultimately to come home to be reconciled is a very human story and it applies not just to a nation but especially to individuals. The central part of the reading from Luke’s Gospel is a moving story. An alienated teenager demands freedom without boundaries, freedom without consideration of other people. The young man asks and receives his future share of the farm, he converts it into cash and is off to the city to spend it, off on a journey to disaster.

The young man’s subsequent suffering brings home to him his alienation, his disorientation. But it is his confident expectation of the father’s welcome that prompts him to turn around and retrace his steps. When he does so, the father is interested in one thing and one thing only and that is the return. The son’s misdeeds are swept aside as irrelevant to the reconciliation. The return in itself is the reconciliation and the cause of great rejoicing and festivities.

When Alessandro, who had murdered Maria Goretti, was nearing the end of his jail sentence his Parish Priest asked him if there was anything he could do for him. “Yes, there is” said Alessandro.” Throughout my long years in jail”, he said, “I have always wondered if Maria’s mother will ever forgive me. Could you find out”, he asked

On Alessandro’s release the parish priest arranged a small ceremony in the local church. Still lonely for her beautiful daughter, Maria’s mother and Alessandro received Holy Communion side by side. Then in a wonderful gesture of reconciliation the mother threw her arms around the one time convict and sobbing she said “I forgive you, I forgive you!”

The reading from 2 Corinthians reminds us that those who are in union with Christ, those who are reconciled, are like a new creation, just as the Israelites were a new people entering the promised land. It is in Christ that the world is reconciled.  In Christ we learn not only the story but the reality of the Father’s welcome. The Father’s door is always open and has a welcome sign for all who wish to be reconciled …As the Father forgives us, he challenges us to forgive others.

Fr Dan Devitt SDB, Dalesian Community, Limerick, Ireland