The Scripture for this Fourth Sunday in Lent is what we need to hear when we also take part in the One Great Hour of Sharing.All three readings are like a trio, each adding a part to both instruct and inspire us as we hear:
First from the Old Testament:the announcement that the starving Israelites were sustained on a diet of manna, honey cakes baked from a substance that appeared in the morning dew, ended when they came to Canaan where they ate the produce of the land.
The line to carry forward and know – in the midst of famine, parched land, no water, dying crops and cattle in many places of the earth, there are other parts with enough food to feed the entire world, and be like the Israelites who, having known hunger in their wilderness migration, came to a place that produced the crops of the land of Canaan.
On this One Great Hour of Sharing Sunday we are reminded
God’s good earth has its Canaan-like crops…enough to feed the world.
Second, from the Gospel’s familiar story we hear of the brazen young son who demanded his inheritance BEFORE his father died, and then wasted it and ended up eating garbage. When he stumbled back home to beg for food and forgiveness, which he had no right to receive, and in the custom of that day, the townspeople would have driven him away or even him, to keep him from being a disgrace to home and village,
but his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed
him.and announced: this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’
And they began to celebrate.
What might be called a present day version of the story is dramatized in a YouTube video (Aug. 5, 2015) that shows a young man leaning against a storefront window on a New York City street, holding a sign that reads:
“Homeless, need money for weed, drug, and alcohol.”
Numerous people stop, drop money into his cup, and some make such comments as, “Stay high, man, stay high” and “Make sure you get a big bottle.”
The screen darkens on that scene and then opens on one that shows the same young man, but now with a small girl lying on the sidewalk with her head in his lap. He too holds a sign that reads:
“Homeless single father. Need money for family.”
As people walk by they turn away to avoid looking at them and no money is dropped in the cup. They are totally ignored!
Finally, after an hour a woman stoops down, drops a small amount of money in the cup, and as she does she says, ‘This is all I made today, but you need the money more than I do.” She who is also homeless than asks if she may say a prayer for them. The young man gives an accepting nod and she prays, asking God to look out for them and keep them safe. He responds by calling her a hero and gives her far more money than she gave him.
Then he reveals the whole scene in three settings was a social experiment. (View “Homeless Drug Addict VS Homeless Father (Social Experiment),” accessed August 5, 2015, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ilxjo5RlzFc.
Listen to a re-telling of that YouTube drama against the background of the Gospel story picturing a father running to get to his wastrel son before the villagers come down on him, as the custom of the day would have them do,
and know Jesus is telling a story meant to cut through that custom and today’s conflicting reactions to that New York City street drama.
The obvious imagery being, the father is meant to be seen as God,running out to embrace those who by their own wrong choices, or another’s corrupting influence, or circumstances over which they have no control, are to be brought back home and welcomed into the family with feasting and singing and joyous celebrations.
To make the father’s welcome even more obvious and compelling, the role is taken up in Jesus and dramatized in one scene and story after another, until the last night of His life, when eating with His closest friends, he took up the servant’s work of washing their feet and when He was finished, said they, too, were to serve one another as He had served them. They were to take up the father’s role in the Gospel story.
It’s today’s third Scripture that has us hearing: So we are ambassadors for Christ,
since God is making his appeal through us; Anyone who sits at Christ’s table today accepts the commission of being an “Ambassador for Christ.”
Members of His church are little colonies of congregations in an often hostile world, embassies where Christ’s life is the rule, where people are welcomed into His love and are safe in His embrace.
And wherever we, His followers, go in this world, we represent Him, we literally are re-presenting Christ.
In his book, Rediscovering Jesus, Matthew Kelly begins with the story of Paul. Along with his co-workers he rushes out of a Brooklyn office building to hurry home to his wife and boss to report how well the meeting went.
They see an empty cab, a rare sight at rush hour, and bolt across the street, flagging down the driver to get them to the airport. In their hurry they unintentionally knock over a fruit stand on the side walk. Paul calls to the other to go on; he’ll catch up, and goes back to the pavement covered with fruit where he sees the woman who is standing behind the stand with tears streaming down her face, is blind.
“It’s OK,” he says as he picks the fruit and presses some money into her hand to cover the cost of what’s lost.
As he does, she calls out, “Mister, are you Jesus?” Oh, no,” he said.
No, not Jesus, but His ambassador.
The trio of lessons read on this One Great Hour of Sharing designated to give money to help those in need, has us remembering the line of an old hymn: “Every task however simple...done to others is done to Thee.”
“Are we Jesus? No, but we are: ambassadors for Christ, ministering through us and One Great Hour of Sharing is one way to serve! Amen