Fourth Sunday of Lent (Laetare) - Year C
“While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him”
“O Lord, you have read my thoughts from afar; you have marked my path and my journey's end; you have foreseen all my ways.” In other words, while I am still a pilgrim and have not yet reached my true country, my thoughts are an open book to you. Think of the younger son of the parable… Not so the elder son; he stayed at home and worked in the fields, representing those holy men of the Old Testament who carried out the duties imposed by the law and obeyed its precepts.
But the rest of the human race by its lapse into idolatry, had left for a distant country. Nothing, in fact, re moves us further from the God who made us than the false gods we make! for ourselves.
The younger son, then, left for a distant country, taking his money with him, and, as the gospel tells us, he squandered it... When he was worn out by hard labor, affliction, and want, his thoughts turned to his father, and he made up his mind to return to him. “I will arise,” he said, “and go to my father”… But is not he whom I have forsaken everywhere? “You have read my thoughts from afar.” In the gospel story the Lord tells us that the boy's father went out to meet him because he had read his thoughts from afar, he had marked all his paths. What was this path but the ill-chosen road which the boy took when he left his father, furtively trying to escape observation and punishment? Would he have been worn out by hardship or sent to feed pigs unless his father had wanted him to be punished in his absence so that he could welcome him on his return?...
So he was caught like a runaway slave, overtaken by the well-deserved chastisement of God who punishes us for our unlawful desires, no matter where we go or how far we travel. So, like a slave caught on the run, the son says: “You have marked my path and seen all my ways.” However long my path, it could not hide me from your eyes. I had walked a great distance but you were there at my destination. Before I had even entered, before I had even set out, you saw it all beforehand. And you allowed me to follow my paths in hard labor so that, if I should not want to labor any more, I might return to your ways… I confess my sin before you: I went my own way and wandered far from you; I left you with whom my best interests lay, and it was for my own good that everything went wrong for me without you, for if all had gone well for me without you, the chances are that I would never have returned to you.