PS: 4th Sunday of Lent (Laetare Sunday)

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Each week, a Dominican member of the Province of St. Joseph’s Preaching Advisory Board prepares this Preacher’s Sketchbook in anticipation of the upcoming Sunday Mass. The idea of the Preacher’s Sketchbook is to take quotations from the authority of the Church–the Pope, the Fathers of the Church, documents of the Councils, the saints–that can help spark ideas for the Sunday homily. Just as an artist’s sketchbook preserves ideas for later elaboration, so we hope the Preacher’s Sketchbook will provide some ideas for homiletical elaboration.

Sketchbook

Cycle A

Saint Ambrose:

The person whom Jesus touches receives more than just his sight. In one instant we see both the power of his divinity and the strength of his holiness. As the divine light, he touched [the blind] man and enlightened him; as priest, by an action symbolizing baptism he wrought in him his work of redemption

Nicholas Cabasilas:

Through these sacred Mysteries as through windows the Sun of Righteousness enters this dark world. He puts to death the life which accords with this world, but raises up that which is above the world. The Light of the world overcomes this world, which he affirms when he says, “I have overcome the world” (Jn 16:33), and introduces the abiding and immortal life into a mortal body which is subject to change.When the sunlight enters a house the lamp no longer attracts the sight of the onlookers, but the brightness of the sunlight overcomes it and dims it. Similarly, when in this life the brightness of the life to come enters through the Mysteries and dwells in our souls it overcomes the life which is in the flesh and the beauty of this world and conceals their brightness. This is the life which is in the Spirit, which overcomes every desire of the flesh.

Father Bede Jarrett, O.P.:

Easter not only helps us yearly to hope again, but further lays on us the obligation to hope. This is not only a counsel but a command; for hope is a virtue that must be practiced by all Christians. The foundation of hope is, no doubt, in God himself, but the stimulus to it will be found in the mystery of the Resurrection, showing that there is no cause so desperate, no defeat so apparently crushing, no condition so hopeless, to which, if God wills, triumph will not come.

Monsignor Lorenzo Albacete:

We become Christians because the Incarnation happened in history, because the Paschal Mystery happened, because Pentecost happened, and because those events continue to happen in the world today. They happen now because they happened then and because the Church exists in the world as the life of a communion of persons created by these events, and making them present today through the sacraments. They happen because Christ has risen from the dead and can be encountered today with exactly the same results experienced by Andrew, James, John, Peter, Mary Magdalen, the Samaritan woman, the man born blind, Zacchaeus, and the criminal at the cross next to his. Something happened to them. It was an event. The key to the Christian life, the point of departure, is not an intellectual or cultural proposal. It is this event. This is what creates the concern which post-Christian man has so tragically lost.

Archbishop Augustine J. DiNoia, O.P.:

The message that Christ brings to us and to the world involves not the suppression of human nature and of the human good but their total consummation. Only with the faith that we and the man born blind receive from Christ can we see the full truth about the human person and about human society, for we learn to look upon these realities in the way that God looks upon them.… We see things now in the perspective of the divine desire to bring all human persons into the communion of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.…What higher destiny can there be than this one?… The message which the Church receives from Christ and which she is bound to proclaim to the world does not impose a set of constraints on the human race but sets it free to pursue a destiny which is unimaginably greater than anything that we could generate for ourselves or that our culture…could offer us.

Cycle C

Saint Ephrem the Syrian:

Do not lose heart, O soul, do not grieve; pronounce not over yourself a final judgment for the multitude of your sins; do not commit yourself to fire; do not say: The Lord has cast me from his face….. Can it be that he who has turned away cannot turn back again? Do you not hear how kind the Father is to a prodigal?… He awaits you; just do not be ashamed and do not hide from the face of God as did Adam…. Christ knows that man is miserable. Do not give yourself up to despair and apathy, assuming that you have been prepared for the fire…. Imitate the prodigal son: leave the city that starves you. Come and beseech him and you shall behold the glory of God. Your face shall be enlightened and you will rejoice in the sweetness of paradise. Glory to the Lord and Lover of mankind who saves us!

Blessed John Paul II:

In the parable of the prodigal son, the term “justice” is not used even once; just as in the original text the term “mercy” is not used either. Nevertheless, the relationship between justice and love, that is manifested as mercy, is inscribed with great exactness in the content of the Gospel parable. It becomes more evident that love is transformed into mercy when it is necessary to go beyond the precise norm of justice—precise and often too narrow…. The son had not only squandered the part of the inheritance belonging to him but had also hurt and offended his father by his whole conduct. Since this conduct had in his own eyes deprived him of his dignity as a son, it could not be a matter of indifference to his father. It was bound to make him suffer…. The prodigal son is aware of this, and it is precisely this awareness that shows him clearly the dignity which he has lost.”

Father Jean-Baptiste Henri Lacordaire, O.P.:

There comes a moment wherein all the satiated powers of man bring to him the invincible certitude of the nothingness of the universe. To the heart that is void this universe, so vast, the shadow of the infinite, becomes a void also…. What is wanting to him is to believe and to be moved; it is to see God in all things, and to find beneath the vestment which conceals him from us the unction of his beauty. He finds it not…. Despair has its martyrdom…. With fixed but viewless gaze, the despairing man stands motionless. He hears, yet no sound reaches him; no friend crosses his threshold, no hand clasps his. An infinite abandonment of himself…. There is in despair a remnant of human greatness, because it includes a contempt for all created things, and consequently an indication of the incomparable capacity of our being.

Pope Benedict XVI:

The Greek word used in the parable for the property that the son dissipates means “essence” in the vocabulary of Greek philosophy. The prodigal dissipates “his essence,” himself… Those who understand freedom as the radically arbitrary license to do just what they want and to have their own way are living in a lie, for by his very nature man is part of a shared existence and his freedom is shared freedom. His very nature contains direction and norm, and becoming inwardly one with this direction and norm is what freedom is all about. A false autonomy thus leads to slavery…. For the Jews the pig is an unclean animal, which means that the swineherd is the expression of man’s most extreme alienation and destitution. The totally free man has become a wretched slave…. Living far away from home, from his origin, this man has also strayed far away from himself. He lived away from the truth of his existence.

Father Dominique Barthélemy, O.P.:

“Go at once and fetch a ring and the best robe; let the fatted calf be killed…” The prodigal can make nothing of all this. Why not? Because in rebelling against his father, he has distorted in his mind the image of the father…. He began by doubting his father as a father and as a loving father.… He had begun by falsifying the image of his father in his own mind, having allowed himself to doubt his father’s love.… He cannot conceive that his father’s love has in fact been wounded, is suffering, is broken, and that he longs for the return of his son; that his father has simply no idea of bargaining with him but only wants to be able to call back to his inmost heart this son who has gone so far astray, and whose very return would be enough to fill him with joy. The father knows that even if it is only necessity that has brought his son back again, yet love can eventually be born again, through a real relationship with his father, and not with that caricature that his son had made of him.

Fr Pius Pietrzyk, OP