Sunday Reflection: 4th Sunday in Lent ( Year C )

Gospel Reading:

The tax collectors and the sinners were all seeking the company of Jesus to hear what he had to say, and the Pharisees and the scribes complained. ‘This man’ they said ‘welcomes sinners and eats with them.’ So he spoke this parable to them:

‘A man had two sons. The younger said to his father, “Father, let me have the share of the estate that would come to me.” So the father divided the property between them. A few days later, the younger son got together everything he had and left for a distant country where he squandered his money on a life of debauchery.

‘When he had spent it all, that country experienced a severe famine, and now he began to feel the pinch, so he hired himself out to one of the local inhabitants who put him on his farm to feed the pigs. And he would willingly have filled his belly with the husks the pigs were eating but no one offered him anything. Then he came to his senses and said, “How many of my father’s paid servants have more food than they want, and here am I dying of hunger! I will leave this place and go to my father and say: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as one of your paid servants.” So he left the place and went back to his father.

‘While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with pity. He ran to the boy, clasped him in his arms and kissed him tenderly. Then his son said, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son.” But the father said to his servants, “Quick! Bring out the best robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the calf we have been fattening, and kill it; we are going to have a feast, a celebration, because this son of mine was dead and has come back to life; he was lost and is found.” And they began to celebrate.

‘Now the elder son was out in the fields, and on his way back, as he drew near the house, he could hear music and dancing. Calling one of the servants he asked what it was all about. “Your brother has come” replied the servant “and your father has killed the calf we had fattened because he has got him back safe and sound.” He was angry then and refused to go in, and his father came out to plead with him; but he answered his father, “Look, all these years I have slaved for you and never once disobeyed your orders, yet you never offered me so much as a kid for me to celebrate with my friends. But for this son of yours, when he comes back after swallowing up your property – he and his women – you kill the calf we had been fattening.”

‘The father said, “My son, you are with me always and all I have is yours. But it is only right we should celebrate and rejoice, because your brother here was dead and has come to life; he was lost and is found.”’

Further Readings:

In the gospel reading the lost son realises his mistake and determines to return to his father. It is contemplation that made the son remember his father’s love.

In his book ‘Found among sinner,’ Martin Cilia talks about ‘surrender in love.’

To go into your inner room means that you enter the room that is within you, where your thoughts are shut up, the place that contains your feelings. This room of prayer is within you at all times. Wherever you go, it is a secret place and what happens there is witnessed by God alone.

This quotation is a good summary of De Piro’s life. In a culture where to do was very important and where the value of the person was tied to one’s work, the call to enter the inner room of his feelings was quite an important and at the same time difficult task for De Piro. With a busy programme as his was, De Piro was convinced of the need and the necessity to take time to explore his inner reality and know the spirit that gives strength to what he is doing.

Prayer is the means that makes us receive treasures of graces from God … and such wonderful treasures such as faith, heaven, the love of God and neighbour are not deprived of a key, and this key can be found by any baptised person through prayer.

Wilter J. Burghardt defines contemplation as, “a pure intuition of being, born of love. It is experiential awareness of reality and a way of entering into immediate communion with reality.” (Contemplation: A Long Loving Look at the Real. ‘Church,’ Winter 1989.) Thus to be contemplative and have a contemplative stance is to see life as the fruit of love and all that happens as the result of this story of love between oneself and God. Out of this experience of love that transcended the level of thought, De Piro was able to integrate the emotional side with his rational side and live by this force of inner love.

De Piro compares contemplation with falling in love: “Why does the Lord order us to love him with all our heart, our soul and strength? Because he wants us to be happy, and we cannot be happy unless we love Him.” He felt born out of love, his life experiences were a window into that love given freely to all, he prayed; “Accept our prayer as a hymn of gratitude for many blessings we have received … fully untied to you, we may forever sing the hymn of love.” Only after falling in love could he be ready to proclaim that same love to others, “He who loves Jesus Christ will do his best to make all people of all nations love him.” In love, De Piro found the reason not only to exist but also to live a fully human life: “We are tied not by iron chains, by moral duty, sin, or fear of hell, but by the sweet chain of love of our Lord.”

To be in love with God and with creation is not just a romantic sensation; “Even our soul has to undertake a long journey through the desert of this life, and it needs to maintain its own force.” Both Scripture and Christian mystical tradition speak about the desert or the dark night of the soul in this process of union with God. Contemplation does not always summon up in delight. The desert, in biblical tradition, is the place where one has to face one’s inner demons. De Piro had to face his own self but he was able to acknowledge the hand of God in every difficult moment.

God’s works bear contrariety as a sign …. For the span of about fourteen years, there were so many difficulties one after the other, that they could have tired everyone. But since it was God who set to work at the task, His servants never lacked courage. Moreover, like a firm and sweet breeze, God’s Spirit that always accompanied the difficulties, blew in the sails of our poor boat troubled so much by the waves.

Contemplation for De Piro is knowing the one who loved him even in the most difficult situations. He let this love so penetrate his being that it strengthened to love in return, De Piro believed in the transformation that such love could bring. Francis of Assisi and Therese of Lisieux were living examples of such personal change they allowed God to change them and give them a vision, which they passed on to the world they lived in. “Therese and Jesus were not two anymore, but Therese had disappeared, as a drop of water in the sea, and Jesus remained alone.” What De Piro writes about Therese, very well describes his own life. Walter J. Burghard says “to touch men and women like these and you will touch the stars, will touch God.” (‘Contemplation: A Loving Look at the Real,’ (Church, Winter 1989) 18.)

To enter in the place of his feelings meant for De Piro to experience fully the love of God. Such love helped him to experience his weakness as well as the need for the one who loved him. Tasting that love was for him an experience that transformed his work into prayer and his whole being into a dwelling place for God.