Saturday, March 13, 2010

Laetare Sunday: "We must celebrate and rejoice"

Laetare, or Fourth, Sunday of Lent

Joshua 5,9. 10-12; Psalm 34; 2 Corinthians 5, 17-21; St. Luke 15, 1-3. 11-32

" 'We must celebrate and rejoice because your brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’”

In the figure of the elder brother of the prodigal son in today's Gospel story we see an example of the scandal experienced by those who do not share our faith in the Church and are led by scandals within the Church to disbelieve in her. This ends with rejection of the Lord himself who still today associates "tax collectors and prostitutes", all sinners, with Himself in his body, the Church.

Jesus gave scandal above all when he identified his merciful conduct toward sinners with God's own attitude toward them. (Cf. Mt 9:13; Hos 6:6) He went so far as to hint that by sharing the table of sinners he was admitting them to the messianic banquet. (Cf. Lk 15: 1-2, 22-32) But it was most especially by forgiving sins that Jesus placed the religious authorities of Israel on the horns of a dilemma. Were they not entitled to demand in consternation, "Who can forgive sins but God alone?" (Mk 2:7) By forgiving sins Jesus either is blaspheming as a man who made himself God's equal or is speaking the truth, and his person really does make present and reveal God's name. (Cf. Jn 5:18; 10:33; 17:6, 26.) (CCC 589)

Only the divine identity of Jesus' person can justify so absolute a claim as "he who is not with me is against me"; and his saying that there was in him "something greater than Jonah, ... greater than Solomon," something "greater than the Temple"; his reminder that David had called the Messiah his Lord, (Cf. Mt 12:6, 30, 36, 37, 41-42.) and his affirmations, "Before Abraham was, I AM"; and even "I and the Father are one." (Jn 8:58; 10:30.)

God's mercy is the cause of our joy. Just like the self-righteous older son, there are those who are scandalized by the Church's profound spirit of joy as she answers the Father's summons to "celebrate and rejoice" at the return of His prodigal sons and daughters, welcoming them with love.

"Holy Mother Church believes that she should celebrate the saving work of her divine Spouse in a sacred commemoration on certain days throughout the course of the year. Once each week, on the day which she has called the Lord's Day, she keeps the memory of the Lord's resurrection. She also celebrates it once every year, together with his blessed Passion, at Easter, that most solemn of all feasts. In the course of the year, moreover, she unfolds the whole mystery of Christ. . . . Thus recalling the mysteries of the redemption, she opens up to the faithful the riches of her Lord's powers and merits, so that these are in some way made present in every age; the faithful lay hold of them and are filled with saving grace." (CCC 1163)

Let's pray for each other until, together next week, we "meet Christ in the liturgy", Father Cusick

(See also nos. 545, 589, 1423, 1439, 1468, 1700, 2795, 2839 in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.)

Meeting Christ in the Liturgy (Publish with permission.)

Art: Guercino, Return of the Prodigal Son

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