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Scripture In Depth
Fourth Sunday of Lent C
March 10. 2013

Reading I: Joshua 5:9a, 10-12

Last Sunday’s second reading interpreted the manna as a type of the Eucharist. Today’s Old Testament reading tells us that the manna ceased when the first Passover was celebrated in the Promised Land.

So, too, the Eucharist will cease when it finds its fulfillment in the messianic banquet of the kingdom of God.

Responsorial Psalm: 34:2-3, 4-5, 6-7

Of this psalm the Jerome Biblical Commentary states: “A wisdom psalm, though it is widely classified as a psalm of thanksgiving.”

Chiefly because of verse 8a, which serves as the refrain (“Taste and see the goodness of the Lord”), this psalm was used in the early Church during the time of communion.

Reading II: 2 Corinthians 5:17-21

It is remarkable that Paul should appeal to the very people he calls a “new creation” to be reconciled to Christ.

This is because the community’s status as the new creation is not an assured possession but something that must constantly be worked at. To renew that status is the work of the apostolic ministry—the “ministry of reconciliation,” as Paul calls it.

God’s saving act in Christ and the ongoing work of the apostolic ministry are not to be separated. The second is an extension of the first, part of the same salvation history.

This salvation history is inaugurated by an event in which “for our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin.” This bold affirmation can best be understood in the light of the Marcan-Matthean word from the cross: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”

Here Jesus enters the deepest consequences of human sin—our alienation from God. He takes his stand where we are as sinners, under the wrath of God, alienated from him, so that we may become what he, Jesus, is—the righteousness of God.

The Greek Fathers were really saying the same thing when they asserted that Christ partook of our human nature in order that we might become partakers of his divine nature.

Gospel: Luke 15:1-3, 11-32

The second reading provides the right context for the interpretation of the parable of the prodigal son.

This parable is often understood as a simple illustration of God’s readiness to forgive in response to repentance, without the necessity of Christ’s atoning death on the cross. “There is no place for Jesus in the parable of the prodigal son,” it has been said.

But the Jesus of the parables is never promulgating timeless truths of religion and ethics; he is always commenting on what is happening concretely in his own ministry.

The Pharisees were grumbling because Jesus was eating with outcasts (vv. 1-3: the Roman and Lutheran Lectionaries wisely start with this setting, while the Episcopal Lectionary less wisely omits it).

The parable is a comment on Jesus’ action in eating with outcasts. He is not left out of the parable for the simple reason that the parable presupposes and interprets his action.

When Jesus eats with outcasts, it is not just humanitarian broadmindedness, as though the laws of God or the Pharisaic regulations did not matter; it is God breaking through the condemnation of his own law in order to reach out and save the lost.

Reginald H. Fuller

Copyright © 1984 by The Order of St. Benedict, Inc., Collegeville, Minnesota. All rights reserved. Used by permission from The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota 56321

Preaching the Lectionary:
The Word of God for the Church Today

Reginald H. Fuller. The Liturgical Press. 1984 (Revised Edition), pp. 335, 412-413.

Preaching the Lectionary

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