Reflecting on the Word of God to be proclaimed at our masses for the 4th Sunday of Lent (Cycle C Readings) I focus especially on the reading from the Book of Joshua, the Responsorial Psalm and the familiar Gospel story of the Prodigal Son (Luke Chapter 15). The thread I see running through each of these readings is the idea of sharing food together. Although the specific details of how a meal is served and how people come together to share a meal have changed over the centuries and vary significantly in different cultures even today, there is something truly universal and timeless about eating together that God embraces and His Word acknowledges.
The reading from Joshua speaks of the end of mannah, the food of the desert, and states that the people began to eat of the "yield of the land of Canaan". There is a great significance in this statement in that it implies that the wandering Israelites are beginning to truly "settle" in the land of Canaan. They are moving away from being foreigners eating foreign food to being residents who eat the "yield of the land". In the context of the great struggle of the people of isreal to move from slavery to freedom, from wandering to being citizens in the land this simple act of eating home grown local food is very important.
The Responsorial Psalm, Psalm 34, uses those beautiful and familiar words "taste and see the goodness of the Lord", echoing again the idea of eating together, of being nurtured in the presence of the Lord by the Lord himself. The beautiful word of the psalm clearly call us beyond merely eating food together to a powerfully intimate relationship with the Lord. Especially in the context of the other readings for the mass this psalm clearly has Eucharistic overtones. We can never cease to be in awe of the wonderous gift we celebrate in the Eucharist, being fed of the "yield of the land" the Kingdom of God by the Son of God Himself.
Finally, I focus on the words in the Gospel that cause all the commotion that prompts the Lord to tell the marvelous story of the Prodigal son. The lament of the people is that Jesus "sits with sinners and eats with them". This is a marvelous gift of the Lord's mercy and we must acknowledge the irony that it is in the protest of this wondrous gift that the Lord is able to once again reinforce His message. Christ makes it clear that the heart of His mission is to "sit with sinners and eat with them", rather than join the protest let us pray that we might acknowledge that we ARE sinners and rejoice that the Lord longs to dine with us, to show us real food and thus to free us from our sins and call us to "go and sin no more".
As we continue this Lenten journey with all the challenges we face individually and communally, as we pray for the Cardinals who enter into Conclave on Tuesday and as we strive to "turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel", let us do our best every day to "taste and see the goodness of the Lord".
God bless, +Joseph