March 30-31, 2019
Laetare Sunday is a day for Rejoicing Because we have been found!
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
The Lenten season is a penitential season which provides us the way and the means by which we can be reconciled with God. The way is the cross and the means is Jesus’ shedding of His blood on that cross. Lent is all about the cross because without the cross there is no reconciliation. This is the reason that the Fourth Sunday of Lent is known as Laetare Sunday. This title comes from the Latin which means rejoice! The rejoicing comes from the entrance antiphon from the Mass, “Rejoice Jerusalem, and all who love her. Be joyful, all who were in mourning.” Our mourning will end with Jesus’ death on the cross, our rejoicing will come with His resurrection.
For forty years the people of Israel mourned in the desert because of their lack of faith and trust is God. The first reading Book of Joshua 5:9a,1012 tells how God who never withdrew His support and love of the people of Israel bring them into the Land that he promised them. “Today, I have removed the reproach of Egypt from you.” God reconciles Israel to the Land, “No longer was there manna for the Israelites, who that year ate of the yield of the land of Canaan.” The land is the outward sign of the covenant and their being able to eat from the produce of the Land is a sign that the God who provided for them in the desert now provides for them in the land that was promised them. And for this, they rejoiced
Just as God reconciled the people of Israel to the Land, Jesus provides through the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:13,1132), how God will reconcile humanity to himself through his unconditional love. That reconciling love as seen is the audience who is assembled to hear Jesus’ Parable of the Prodigal Son, “Tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to Jesus, but the Pharisees and Scribes began to complain, saying, this man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” Was there ever a clearer sign of two groups that needed to be reconciled? Both groups are children of God which means they are all sisters and brothers. Jesus uses this setting to present his Parable of the Prodigal Son.
The three figures in the Parable represent the groups that are assembled to hear Jesus. The younger Son are the tax collectors and sinners, the older son are the Pharisees and Scribes. And the Father is God. The tax collectors and sinners were well aware that they were seen as unclean and defiled due to sin. The younger brother was also unclean and defiled because the choices he made in his life. He regretted those choices and wanted to return home. Something told him that his Father would welcome him home and forgive him for his disobedience.
The Pharisees and Scribes do not want to be in the presence of the tax collectors and sinners, they would be defiled just by simply being in their presence according to the Law. The older brother does not want to welcome his younger brother home not because he is concerned that he will be defiled but because he is resentful that his younger brother wasted a third of his Father’s wealth. The older brother will still inherit two thirds of his Father’s wealth but he does not want to have to support the younger brother from that wealth. But it is not his wealth, it is still the Father’s. The Father wants to rejoice that the younger Son has returned but the older son is filled with judgment and un-forgiveness. “He said to his Father in reply, look, all these years I served you and not once did I disobey your orders, yet you never gave me even a young goat to feast on with my friends.” The older son could not rejoice because his heart was filled with resentment. Both the Pharisees and Scribes as, well as the older brother in the Parable, are filled with judgement and selfrighteousness.
When Jesus tells the final portion of the Parable, He reveals how God’ unconditional love which is poured out on the cross. Jesus says to the tax collectors, sinners, Pharisees and Scribes, “Everything I have is yours. But now we must rejoice, because your brother was dead and has come to life again.” Jesus tells us as well, that everything He has is ours, redemption, forgiveness and new life. Is there anyone in our lives who we are unwilling to forgive? Is there anyone who we are resentful of? As the Father is the Parable says, it is time to set aside our unforgiveness and resentment and rejoice, because when we forgive, we are no longer lost. We rejoice because we have found God.
Yours in Christ,