March 13, 2002 Wednesday of the 4th Week of Lent

Kurisumala Ashram, Kerala, India

 

H O M I L Y

 

As we approach the end of Lent and the celebration of the Paschal Mystery, the liturgical readings convey to us the deepest and most touching part of Jesus' teaching about his Father. Last Sunday we had that beautiful Gospel in which Jesus described the loving compassion of the father receiving home the prodigal son who had wandered away in search of happiness and, after a short period of fun, had found only misery and suffering. Yesterday, in the reading from Ezekiel's vision, we saw Ezekiel being more and more overwhelmed by the waters of life and healing (up to his ankles at first, then to his knees, and to his waist...) as he went further and further away out from himself and abandoned his self‑centeredness, and then returned to the shore of the river where he was before to discover there all the trees and fruits of life he had not seen before.

 

Today's first reading, from Isaiah, could have been an ideal parallel to Sunday's Gospel. It describes God as the most tenderly loving mother opening her arms and bursting with joy as her daughters and sons return from Exile.

 

What lesson must we draw from that wealth of readings. Of course there is an invitation to conversion ‑‑ an invitation to return with confidence to God. And that is the whole thrust of monastic life. Does not Benedict at the beginning of his Rule say that he has written it for those who, having turned away from God through the slot of disobedience want to return to Him through the labor of obedience.

 

But in today's Gospel Jesus brings us to a deeper level. We are invited to become one with our Father in Heaven, as Jesus is one: not only to be the object of his mercy, but to share his mercy for others and for ourselves; not only to do his will but to have only one will with him, which is the radical form of obedience: obedience at the root (radix) of our being.

 

May such a radical transformation of our hearts, which remains the constant goal of our monastic life, and which will be offered us as the special grace of Easter be also in some measure the fruit of today's celebration as it is of every eucharistic celebration. And let us open our hearts to that grace.