- Joshua 5:9-12
- 2 Corinthians 5:16-21
- Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32
Lent is a time for coming to ourselves, of realizing the distance we have put between ourselves and God. It is a time for recovering our “desire for God.” In a lecture at Scarritt-Bennett Center, Henri J. M. Nouwen said, “The spiritual life starts at the place where you can hear God’s voice.” As Jesus so wisely said, it takes ears ready to hear to really listen, and eyes ready to see to really perceive. Coming to ourselves prepares us to return home, regardless of how home is understood.
Coming home after a long absence often requires a reconciliation and recognition of a new way of life. Paul proclaims this “new creation” to the Corinthians – we are reconciled to God through Christ, who never stops loving us (5:18a). When we are adopted as children of God, we are a new people and “everything has become new!” (v. 17b). As a new people, we have been given the “ministry of reconciliation” (v. 18b). We are called to be ambassadors for Christ to lead others to peace.
There was also a sense of reconciliation as the Israelites finally came home and entered the Promised Land under the leadership of Joshua. As they came to the Jordan River, the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant stepped into the water. Then the flow from upstream halted as the water from downstream flowed away, so that all the people could cross. Now that they were safely on the other side, the disgrace of slavery in Egypt was taken away. They had been lost, but were “re-found” to begin a new life.
Chapter 15 of Luke contains three parables about “the lost.” The audience for this series of Jesus’ teachings is the tax collectors and sinners – those who themselves might be described as lost. We see that God’s love is unconditional and reaches out to the sinner even before he repents.
All of these stories illustrate God’s response to the human condition. In spite of separation, the restoration of relationship between God and God’s people is cause for great joy. Simple acts of reconciliation can also be our ministry to the world.
- What do these stories tell you about the character of God? the nature of God’s kingdom?
- Is God’s initiative enough to restore relationship? Why or why not? According to the parable, what else might be needed?
- What do you think the relationship among the main characters of the Parable of the Prodigal Son might have been like before and after these events? What different attitudes toward life are exemplified by the three principal characters? In what way to you identify with each of these individuals?
- What do we learn from this parable about the love of God and the ministry of Jesus?
- Read 2 Corinthians 2:16-21. In light of today’s Gospel, what do you think is meant my the “ministry of reconciliation?” How are we called as individuals and as the Church to carry out this ministry in the world?