Jos. 5:9a, 10-12; Ps. 34; 2 Cor. 5:17-21; Lk. 15:1-3, 11-32
(Audio recorded live, 26 March 2022)
In the midst of our penitential Lenten observances, we arrive at Laetare Sunday—a day that bids we rejoice in the Lord. The theme of rejoicing can be found throughout our readings, as the Israelites celebrated their first passover in the Promise Land, St. Paul reminds us of the reconciliation that has been obtained for us through Christ, and most especially as the father of the prodigal son rejoices at the return of his son. At the heart of all these passages is the mercy of the God the Father. And I can think of no better way to appreciate the Father’s mercy than through our own praise and rejoicing.
It is a sad irony that the world is going through some very destructive growing pains. So, perhaps focusing on the joy of the day may be difficult for some of us. Many of us are still grieving the loss of a loved one due to covid, are heart broken because of war and conflict, are struggling financially, or any number of other challenges. Perhaps some of us feel a bit like the prodigal son, lost, or without direction, not sure if we have enough to get by. But, the parable Jesus tells in today’s Gospel is anything but pessimistic. The story Jesus tells is of a man who disowns his father, squanders all his money, and is left destitute, but upon realizing what he had done seeks to at least be a hired worker for his Father. He does not expect his Father to welcome him back into the family. He even says, “I no longer deserve to be called your son.” But, the father is not interested in hired workers; the father has compassion and mercy on his son, and rejoices at his return. This is the image of God’s love for his people. No matter how far we wander or how deep down the rabbit hole we go, the Father is always waiting for us to make our return.
How do we make our return to the Father? Well, the Season of Lent is all about developing the right disposition, through acts of penance, prayer, fasting, alms giving, and humility. We are all called at this time to look inward at our life, like the prodigal son does, and make our own return to the Father. How that might like for each individual may vary, but I can tell you one thing, our presence here for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is paramount.
Speaking of sacrifice, the Mass is the Sacrifice of Calvary. Every time we celebrate the Mass, it is as if we are standing at the foot of the cross with Mary, Mary Magdalene, and John the disciple. We kneel before Jesus, in the unbloody sacrifice of the altar, and we give thanks for this great act of reconciliation between heaven and earth. What was closed off from us by sin was restored to us through Christ. He did this for us all, as St. Paul says, “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ.” This is an ongoing reality through the Eucharist. And I can think of no greater cause for rejoicing than the reconciliation that has been obtained for us by Jesus.
So, as we continue our Lenten observances, may this brief respite focus our hearts on what has been accomplished for us through Jesus. And may the communion we share today be for us an experience of the mercy of God, who rejoices whenever we make a heartfelt return to him.