Fourth Sunday of Lent • Year C

Stephen M. Curry, O.S.A.
Saint Augustine Preparatory School
Richland, New Jersey

Jos 5:9a, 10-12
Ps 34:2-3, 4-5, 6-7
2 Cor 5:17-21
Lk 15:1-3, 11-32

It is always interesting to observe children interacting with their parents. When one sibling thinks that they are not getting the same thing as their other sibling, the child often says: “It’s not fair.” For example, if the parents order a pizza for the family and Johnny eats one more slice than Vinnie, Vinnie will say: “How come Johnny always gets to eat an extra slice and I don’t? It’s not fair!” The child never takes into account that Johnny is a rapidly growing 16-year old teenager and consumes more food, while Vinnie is only 10-years-old, weighs half as much as Johnny, and he doesn’t need to eat as much. All that Vinnie focuses on is that “it’s not fair.”

Parents always try their best to meet the needs of their children, knowing that each child has unique situations. Johnny is a growing teenager and needs to consume more food to support his body, while Vinnie is an adolescent who needs more parental nurturing. Hence, Johnny gets more pizza and Vinnie gets more hugs and personal time from his parents.

It’s not fair is at the heart of today’s Gospel. The younger son has a need to find himself. He asks his father for his inheritance so that he can experience the world and discover who he really is in life. The older son is gifted with a strong work ethic and the ability to manage his father’s affairs. When the older son doesn’t get to go out and experience the world like his younger brother did, he replies by saying: “t’s not fair, Dad! How come Vinnie gets to have all the fun, while I have to work?” He doesn’t realize in the moment that the rest of the inheritance will be his at a later time in life. In the end, it all balances out.

What does it mean to be fair? In the Rule of St. Augustine, it says that “each person receives what he/she needs.” No two people are treated the same way; rather, each person receives what is needed to help them to grow in their relationship with God and one another.

In today’s second reading, St. Paul tells the Corinthians that fairness comes through the reconciliation of Jesus Christ. Through the death and resurrection of Christ, our sins are forgiven. Regardless of the sin, we are forgiven through the blood that he shed for us on the cross. Jesus doesn’t say to us: “It’s not fair. I gave up my life for you and yet you’re still having a great time sinning in the world.” Rather, Christ says to us: “I have died for all of you, regardless of who sinned more than the next person. I give to each of you according to what you need.”

As we begin the fourth week of Lent, let us find the fairness in the way that God blesses us daily in our lives. Let us ask ourselves: “What blessings has God given to me that others have not received?” Maybe I am blessed with better health than my siblings? Perhaps I have a better job than my neighbors? Maybe I am a better athlete in school than my classmates? Regardless of the benefit, let us see how God blesses us daily in our lives instead of looking for the supposed inequalities.

Just as the first reading tells us how God fed the people of Israel in the desert, so too does God feed us daily. God gives us the graces that we need. Let us look for the fairness in life through the lens of the blessing that we receive daily from God without comparing ourselves to others. If we can look at our relationship with God and others in this way, then in the end, we will all realize that we are the ones who are like Johnny. We will be the ones who get the extra slice of pizza.