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This post is part of our Lenten Reflection Series: Be A Fountain of Mercy
Authored by Sister Mary Regina Robbins, SND

“Quick, bring the finest robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet because this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again.” Lk. 15

Even though the Gospel for this Sunday is familiar to all of us, we never tire of it. It shows in bas relief how in Christ old things can pass away and new things can come. It is possible to let go of the old if it bogs us down, and believe in new life. So we hear again the parable of the Prodigal Son returning to his father who receives him with open arms and abundant blessings of love and gratitude. With a little imagination we can picture Jesus, the storyteller, holding his listeners spellbound as they wonder how the story will end. Surprise, shock! Jesus has come up with a terrifically radical, unforgettable story to get across the mercy of God, the loving Creator-God. He reveals his Abba as one who waits for us, refusing to take away our free will and who even lets us wander and fall until we find how miserable we can be apart from him.

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Especially parents can identify with this story as they feel an aching longing for their departed children. Many parents are tortured by what may have gone wrong or what could have been different in their relationships with their children. They hope and pray for their children to realize that they have a home and are painfully missed.

But the story is not just about others returning. It is also about us. In many ways we wander, straying from goodness and close dependence upon God. During Lent we are invited to spend time looking at where we are and where we have wandered. We allow ourselves in quiet prayer to recognize our plight. By facing our inner truth we come to an awakening, “I must return.”  The Church, especially during the Holy Year of Mercy, opens its doors, providing the sacrament of reconciliation and doctrinal promises of forgiveness and acceptance.

As Saint Paul says in the second reading, God our Father is reconciling us through Christ. As we prepare for the Easter renewal of our baptismal vows we believe: “Whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold new things have come.”

What are these old things for you and what might the new things be? For the Prodigal Son it was very clear. Is it clear for you?

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This post is part of our Lenten Reflection Series: Be A Fountain of Mercy
Authored by Sister Mary Antonine Manning, SND

The burning bush that was not consumed and the barren fig tree that was spared destruction can lead us to a consideration of the duty of care for our common home—the Earth.

In his encyclical On Care for Our Common Home (Laudato Si’) Pope Francis proposes certain practices that may seem trivial but as he says, “directly and significantly affect the world around us.” Among these are choosing to use less heating and wearing warmer clothes instead, avoiding the use of plastic and paper, reducing water consumption, separating trash and recyclables, cooking only what can reasonably be consumed, showing care for other living things, using public transport or carpooling, planting trees, and turning off unnecessary lights (L.S. 211).

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“Reusing something instead of immediately discarding it, when done for the right reasons, can be an act of love which expresses our own dignity,” (L.S. 211). The Pope decries what he terms a throwaway culture. “[W]e know that approximately a third of all food produced is discarded and ‘whenever food is thrown out it is as if it were stolen from the table of the poor,’” (L.S. 50).

Lent provides us with the impetus to examine our lifestyle and to evaluate our stewardship of the Earth.

Questions for reflection:

Am I striving to be aware of how my actions affect others—my brothers and sisters throughout the world?

What type of ecological situations are we forcing future generations to face by ignoring ecological problems now?

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This post is part of our Lenten Reflection Series: Be A Fountain of Mercy
Authored by Sister Mary Regina Robbins, SND

An ambassador is an honorary position, but also a very responsible one. An ambassador stands in place of another of greater distinction and purpose. Saint Paul liked to think of himself as representative of Christ and His message, and so do I! What a Christian challenge! To be a stand-in for Christ!

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We carry in our hearts and minds the indwelling of our Savior, with all the outpouring of God’s love. The call this Lent may be precisely to let Christ truly live out His love in and through us. We might spend some time reflecting on Paul’s words to the Corinthians (2Cor. 5.20-6.2).

“We are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, to be reconciled to God. For our sake He made Him to be sin who did not know sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. Working together, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain!”

So we resolve not to receive the grace of God in vain. This Lent the church is even more than ever aware of the great message of God’s love and forgiveness, as Pope Francis has announced a Holy Year of Mercy. To reflect on God’s great love, acceptance and forgiveness, encourages us to be merciful to ourselves but also challenges us to treat others with this same mercy. We recognize and even celebrate that while made to the image and likeness of God, we are all very human and human beings are “in the making” and not brought to perfection yet. Because we are in the making we depend on and want others to give us the benefit of the doubt, to have mercy when we fail or make mistakes. We too need not to judge others or expect perfection from them. Let us use the entrance antiphon for Ash Wednesday as our own mantra this week: “You are merciful to all, O Lord. You overlook people’s sins, to bring them to repentance, and you spare them, for you are the Lord our God.” But instead of the “Lord” say: “I am merciful to all.” And then see what happens.

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