Fourth Sunday of Lent readings:

Joshua 5:9-12 

Psalm 34:2-7 

2 Corinthians 5:17-21 

Luke 15:1-3, 11-32

Here is a question appropriate for Lent: "Who am I living for?"

The answer can be approached via other questions: "Whose happiness matters to me?" "Who am I trying to please?" "If I achieved my goals and got everything I want to have, who would benefit most?"

For most of us, the honest answer would be "me."

You might respond, of course, each of us finds ourselves to be the person of primary importance. Each of us inescapably seeks happiness.

Granted. So let me refine the question: "Do I dedicate my (certainly important) self to anyone else's welfare?" "Where do other people fit into my (innate) search for happiness?" "Given the direction in which my life is headed, when I get to the end, for whom will I have lived?"

Reflection on these questions may lead to uncomfortable conclusions.

If we recognize selfishness in ourselves and want to change, other questions follow: "Do I have the resources within me to pivot outward to others?" If I'm a selfish person, how can I become anything different?"

While recognizing our natural tendencies to care for others, the Christian diagnosis is that our deep-rooted tendency to make ourselves the center of our lives is not something we can leverage ourselves out of.

This brings us to Sunday’s second reading. Before the section we read, St. Paul has said that Jesus "died for all, so that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for Him who for their sake died and was raised" (2 Corinthians 5:15).

Jesus has dealt with our tendency to live for ourselves rather than for God and other people. By His death, He enables us to make a break with the self-centered person we have been, opening up the possibility of directing our energies toward the good of the people in our lives.  

Then St. Paul declares: "Whoever is in Christ is a new creation ... old things have passed away; behold, new things have come" (1 Corinthians 5:17). God, who called the universe into existence, wishes to create in us a turning outward to other people. He wishes to place in us the power to put others' interests ahead of our own and find our happiness in loving them – as He does.

This, then, is the starting point for becoming a person of love: to put our faith in this action of God in us.