Approach God this Lent with the humility and contrite heart of the prodigal son – LifeSite

(LifeSiteNews) — The station is the church of Saints Peter and Marcellinus, two celebrated martyrs of Rome, under the persecution of Diocletian. Their names are inserted in the Canon of the Mass.


Grant, Lord, we beseech thee, this saving effect of our fast, that the chastisement of the flesh, which we have undertaken, may become the improvement of our souls. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.


The Lesson is from the book of Genesis 27:6-40

In those days: Rebecca said to her son Jacob: I heard thy father talking with Esau thy brother, and saying to him, “Bring me of thy hunting, and make me meats that I may eat, and bless thee in the sight of the Lord, before I die.” Now, therefore, my son, follow my counsel; and go thy way to thy flock, bring me two kids of the best, that I may make of them meat for thy father, such as he gladly eateth; which when thou hast brought in, and he hath eaten, he may bless thee before he die. And he answered her: Thou knowest that Esau my brother is a hairy man, and I am smooth; if my father shall feel me, and perceive it, I fear lest he will think I would have mocked him, and I shall bring upon me a curse instead of a blessing. And his mother said to him: Upon me be this curse, my son; only hear thou my voice, and go, fetch me the things which I have said. He went, and brought, and gave them to his mother. She dressed meat such as she knew his father liked. And she put on him very good garments of Esau, which she had at home with her; and the little skins of the kids she put about his hands, and covered the bare of his neck. And she gave him the savory meat, and delivered him bread that she had baked. Which when he had carried in, he said: My father? But he answered: I hear; who art thou my son? And Jacob said: I am Esau thy first-born; I have done as thou didst command me; arise, sit, and eat of my venison, that thy soul may bless me. And Isaac said to his son: How couldst thou find it so quickly, my son? He answered: It was the will of God, that what I sought came quickly in my way. And Isaac said: Come hither, that I may feel thee my son, and may prove whether thou be my son Esau or no. He came near to his father, and when he had felt him, Isaac said: The voice, indeed is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau. And he knew him not, because his hairy hands made him like to the elder. Then blessing him, he said: Art thou my son Esau? He answered: I am. Then he said: Bring me the meats of thy hunting, my son, that my soul may bless thee. And when they were brought and he had eaten, he offered him wine also; which after he had drunk, he said to him: Come near me, and give me a kiss, my son. He came near, and kissed him. And immediately as he smelled the fragrant smell of his garments, blessing him, he said: Behold the smell of my son is as the smell of a plentiful field, which the Lord hath blessed. God give thee of the dew of heaven, and of the fatness of the earth, abundance of corn and wine. And let peoples serve thee, and tribes worship thee; be thou lord of thy brethren, and let thy mother’s children bow down before thee. Cursed be he that curseth thee, and let him that blesseth thee be filled with blessings. Isaac had scarce ended his words, when Jacob being now gone out abroad, Esau came, and brought into his father meats of of what he had taken in hunting, saying, Arise, my father, and eat of thy son’s venison; that thy soul may bless me. And Isaac said to him: Why! who art thou? He answered: I am thy first-born son Esau. Isaac was struck with fear, and astonished exceedingly, and wondering beyond what can be believed, said: Who is he that even now brought me venison that he had taken, and I ate of all before thou camest? and I have blessed him, and he shall be blessed. Esau having heard his father’s words, roared out with a great cry, and being in a consternation said: Bless me also, my father. And he said: Thy brother came deceitfully and got thy blessing. But he said again: Rightly is his name called Jacob, for he hath supplanted me lo! this second time; my first birth-right he took away before, and now this second time he hath stolen away my blessing. And again he said to his father: Hast thou not reserved me also a blessing? Isaac answered: I have appointed him thy lord, and have made all his brethren his servants: I have established him with corn and oil, and after this, what shall I do more for thee, my son? And Esau said to him: Hast thou only one blessing, father? I beseech thee, bless me also. And when he wept with a loud cry, Isaac being moved, said to him: In the fat of the earth, and in the dew of heaven from above, shall thy blessing be.

The two sons of Isaac are another illustration of God’s judgments upon Israel, and his vocation of the gentiles. The instruction contained in this passage from Genesis was intended for the catechumens.

Here we have two brothers, Esau the elder, and Jacob the younger; Esau represents the Jewish people; he is his father’s heir, and, as such, he has a glorious future before him. Jacob, though twin brother to Esau, is the second born, and has no right to the special blessing which Esau claimed: he is the figure of the gentiles. How, then, is it that Jacob receives the blessing, and not Esau?

The sacred volume tells us that Esau is a carnal-minded man. Rather than deny himself the momentary gratification of his appetite, he sacrifices the spiritual advantages, which his father’s blessing is to bring him: he sells his birth-right to Jacob for a mess of pottage. We know the mother’s plan for the securing Jacob’s claim; and how the aged father is, unsuspectingly, the instrument in God’s hands, by ratifying and blessing this substitution, of which he himself had no knowledge. Esau, having returned home, is made aware of the greatness of his loss; but it is too late, and he becomes an enemy to his brother.

The same thing happens with the Jewish people; they are carnal-minded and lose their birth-right – their pre-eminence over the gentiles. They refuse to acknowledge a Messias who is poor and persecuted; their ambition is for earthly triumph and earthly greatness; and the only kingdom that Jesus holds out to his followers is a spiritual one. The Jews, then, reject this Messias; but the gentiles receive him, and they become the first-born, the favored people.

And whereas the Jews repudiate this substitution (to which, however, they assented, when they said to Pilate: “We will not have this Man to reign over us”) (Luke 19:14) they are indignant at seeing the Heavenly Father bestowing all his love and blessings on the Christian people.

They that are children of Abraham, according to the flesh, are disinherited; and they that are the children of Abraham by faith only, are evidently the children of the promise; according to those words of the Lord, which he spoke to that great patriarch: “I will multiply thy seed as the stars of Heaven, and as the sand that is by the sea-shore … In thy seed (that is, “in Him who is to be born of thy race,”) all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 22:17-18)


Sequel of the holy Gospel according to Luke 15:11-32

At that time: Jesus spoke to the Scribes and Pharisees this parable: A certain man had two sons; and the younger of them said to his father: Father, give me the portion of substance that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his substance. And not many days after, the younger son, gathering all together, went abroad into a far country, and there wasted his substance with living riotously. And, after he had spent all, there came a mighty famine in that country, and he began to be in want. And he went and cleaved to one of the citizens of that country. And he sent him into his farm to feed swine. And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks the swine did eat; and no man gave unto him. And returning to himself he said: How many hired servants in my father’s house abound with bread, and I here perish with hunger? I will arise, and will go to my father, and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee; I am not now worthy to be called thy son; make me as one of thy hire servants. And rising up, he came to his father. And when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and was moved with compassion; and running to him, fell upon his neck, and kissed him. And the son said to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee; I am not now worthy to be called thy son. But the father said to his servants: Bring forth quickly the first robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet; and bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it, and let us eat, and make merry; because this my son was dead, and is now come to life again, was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry. Now his eldest son was in the field; and when he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard music and dancing, and he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant. And he said to him: Thy brother is come, and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe. And he was angry, and would not go in. His father therefore coming out began to entreat him. And he answering said to his father: Behold, for so many years do I serve thee, and I have never transgressed thy commandments, and yet thou hast never given me a kid to make merry with my friends; but as soon as this thy son is come, who hath devoured his substance with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf. But he said to him: Son, thou art always with me, and all I have is thine. But it was fit we should make merry and be glad; for this thy brother was dead, and is come to life again, he was lost, and is found.

The mystery brought before us in the Epistle is repeated in our Gospel. Again, it is the history of two brothers; the elder is angry at seeing his father show mercy to the younger. This younger Brother has gone abroad into a far country; he has quitted his father’s house, that he might be under no control, and indulge in every kind of disorder. But when a mighty famine came, and he was perishing with hunger, he remembered that he had a father; and, at once he arose, and humbly besought his father to receive him, and give him the last place in that house which, but for his own folly, might have been all his own.

The father received the prodigal with the tenderest affection; not only did he pardon him, he restored him to all his family rights; nay, he would have a feast kept in honor of this happy return. The elder brother hearing what the father had done, was indignant, and conceives the bitterest jealousy against his younger brother.

Let the Jews be jealous, if they will; let them be indignant with their God for showing his mercy to any but themselves. The time is come when all the nations of the earth are to be called to the One Fold. The gentiles, notwithstanding all the misery into which their errors and their passions had led them, are to receive the preaching of the apostles.

Greeks and Romans, Scythians and Barbarians, are to come, humbly acknowledging the evil of their ways, and ask to share in the favors offered to Israel. Not only are they to be allowed to eat of the crumbs that fall from the table, which was all the poor woman of Canaan dared to hope for; they are to be made sons and heirs of the Father, with all the attendant rights and privileges.

Israel will be jealous, and will protest; but to no purpose. He will refuse to take part in the feast; it matters not, the feast is to be. This feast is the Pasch. The prodigals that have come, starved and naked, to the Father’s house, are our catechumens, on whom God is about to bestow the grace of adoption.

But there are also the public penitents, who are being prepared by the Church for Reconciliation; they too are the prodigals, who come seeking mercy from their offended Father. This Gospel was intended for them as well as for the catechumens. But now that the Church has relaxed her severe discipline, she offers this parable to all those who are in the state of sin, and are preparing to make their peace with God.

They know not as yet how good is the God from whom they have strayed by sin: let them read today’s Gospel, and see how Mercy exalteth itself above Judgment, (James 2:13) in that God, who so loved the world, as to give Ids Only Begotten Son. (John 3:16) How far soever they may have gone astray, or how great soever may have been their ingratitude, let them take courage; a feast is being prepared in their Father’s house, to welcome them home again.

The loving Father is waiting at the door to receive and embrace them; the first robe, the robe of innocence, is to be restored to them; the ring, which they alone wear that are of God’s family, is to be once more placed on their hand. There is a banquet being prepared for them at which the angels, out of joy, will sing their glad songs.

Let these poor sinners, then, cry out with a contrite heart: “Father! I have sinned against heaven, and before thee; I am not now worthy to be called thy son; make me as one of thy hired servants.” This tender-hearted Father asks only this much of them: sincere sorrow for their sins, humble confession, and a firm resolution of being faithful for the time to come. Let them accept these easy terms, and he will receive them, once more, as his dearest children.

Bow down your heads to God.

Protect, O Lord, we beseech thee, thy family, by thy continual goodness, that as it relieth on the hopes of thy heavenly grace, so it may be defended by thy heavenly aid. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

This being Saturday, let us have recourse to Mary, the Queen of Mercy. Let us address ourselves to per in these devout words of a Sequence, taken from the ancient Cluny Missals. This is our request: that she would obtain for us the pardon of our sins.


Hail, fair Star! that yieldest a ray of new Light, whereby is blotted out the shame of our race.

O thou the singular hope of man! O thou, our refuge! Appease thy Son, at the hour of our judgment.

Thou art the flowery rod of Jesse: thou art the true first spring-flower, bringing us our Jesus.

O ever blooming Rose there is not a stain upon thee and thy Fruit taketh our stains away.

Thy virginal womb is the Fount of the Garden, the source of Him that is the Water of Life.

Yea, thou art the golden throne, whereon the King of heaven crowned his Son.

The Palace of sweet perfumes, formed with exquisite skill by the hand of the great Artificer;

Wherein Jesus, having put on the garment of our flesh, was consecrated High Priest.

Thou art the fount that givest forth oil, yea a dew sweet as honey; for thou art all love.

Hence came to us the font that washeth away the bitterness and stains of sin.

O Mother! whose Heart was pierced by the wounds of thy suffering Son,

Show us a Mother’s care and love; and when the dread judgment comes, deliver us from punishment. Amen.

This text is taken from The Liturgical Year, authored by Dom Prosper Gueranger (1841-1875). LifeSiteNews is grateful to The Ecu-Men website for making this classic work easily available online.

Previous ArticleNext Article