Homily for 4th Sunday of Lent (Laetare Sunday), Year C
March 30-31, 2019
Sacred Heart, EGF – Saturday, 5:30 PM
Holy Trinity, Tabor – Sunday, 10:00 AM
Focus: You don’t have to earn the right to come home.
Function: Come home.
Home is the place of our origin, our growing up.
It is our place of residence.
It is a place of comfort and familiarity.
It is the place where we feel attached.
Home is where we belong.
Recently I read Robert Frost’s poem entitled “The Death of the Hired Man”. The poem is about the homecoming of a hired farmhand named Silas who has been less than reliable and has left the farmer high and dry in the past.
I’d like to share part of the poem with you:
Mary sat musing on the lamp-flame at the table
Waiting for Warren. When she heard his step,
She ran on tip-toe down the darkened passage
To meet him in the doorway with the news
And put him on his guard.
“Silas is back.”
She pushed [Warren] outward with her through the door
And shut it after her.
“Be kind,” she said.
She took the market things from Warren’s arms
And set them on the porch, then drew him down
To sit beside her on the wooden steps.
“When was I ever anything but kind to him?
But I’ll not have the fellow back,” he said.
“I told him so last haying, didn’t I?
‘If he left then,’ I said, ‘that ended it.’
What good is he? Who else will harbour him
At his age for the little he can do?
What help he is there’s no depending on.
Off he goes always when I need him most…
…In haying time, when any help is scarce.
In winter he comes back to us. I’m done.”
“Sh! not so loud: he’ll hear you,” Mary said.
“I want him to: he’ll have to soon or late.”
“He’s worn out. He’s asleep beside the stove.
When [I got home] I found him here,
Huddled against the barn-door fast asleep,
A miserable sight, and frightening, too—
You needn’t smile—I didn’t recognise him—
I wasn’t looking for him—and he’s changed.
Wait till you see.”
“Warren,” she said, “he has come home to die:
You needn’t be afraid he’ll leave you this time.”
“Home,” he mocked gently.
Yes, what else but home?
It all depends on what you mean by home. …,” [Mary said.]
“Home is the place where, when you have to go there,
They have to take you in.”
“I should have called it
Something you somehow haven’t to deserve.”[I]
Brothers and sisters, during this Lenten season, I have had several conversations with people that have revolved around repentance, conversion, and one’s relationship with God.
In more than a few of these conversations, the dialogue has gone something like this:
“I know I need to go to confession, but I’m not ready.”
“What’s holding you back?”
“I need to fix myself before confess my sins otherwise I’ll lying and it won’t be sincere.”
In other words, I’m not yet ready to come home.
I’m not yet ready to come home, because I believe that
Home is the place where, when you have to go there,
they have to take you in.
And I don’t want that. I don’t want pity. I want to have my act together. I want to earn the Father’s love. I want to be worthy of the Father’s love.
The parable of the prodigal son overturns this logic. We may view home as the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in. But that is not how the Father views it.
The Father views it like Mary:
I should have called it
Something you somehow haven’t to deserve.
The Father stands on his doorstep,
longing for his lost child to return home;
to return to where he belongs, near the Father’s heart,
to return, not with everything fixed and put nicely together,
but to return as we are,
reeking like the dung from the pigpen of our sins,
and it is there, it is then,
when we stink to high heaven,
that the Father throws his arms around us and weeps with joy that his son, his daughter, has returned.
And it is there, it is then,
when we experience the mercy and tenderness of the Father’s love for us,
that we are able to work on growing in those areas where we struggle with sin.
We work on them after we have been washed clean in the shower of his tears for us.
We work on them with his grace when we are in his grace.
We work on them together with him, not apart from him.
My brothers and sisters, we don’t fix ourselves before we come home.
No, first we come home, we are embraced,
and it is there,
it is then,
in the Father’s house,
where we work on getting our house in order,
on making things right.
Until the day we stop trying to earn the Father’s love for us,
until we are able to experience his love for us in the muck of our sins,
we will not truly appreciate what it means to be home.
Home is not the place where, when we have to go there, He has to take us in.
No, home is rather something we somehow haven’t to deserve.
Some of you may find yourselves resisting the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It has been years since you’ve been reconciled. The Lord is calling you there, but you don’t think you’re ready. You want to fix yourself before you return. You feel the weight of your sins. They are crushing you. They are killing you.
I offer to you tonight the words of St. Paul:
Be reconciled to God!
The Father is waiting, watching and waiting with longing in his heart and with open arms to welcome home his son or daughter who is lost.
Make the Father’s heart rejoice.
He doesn’t care what you’ve done. He just wants you home.
He doesn’t want you to earn your way home. He just wants you home.
You are enough as you are.
Come as you are.
[i] Robert Frost, “The Death of the Hired Man”