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Saturday, March 13, 2010

Fourth Sunday (Laetare) of Lent

March 14, 2010

“My God, these are demanding readings! You tell us Lord, through Saint Paul, that you have reconciled us to Yourself through Christ and have given us the ministry of reconciliation. I need to do better with the gift of ministry you have entrusted to us because my humanity gets in the way every single day. I want the new creation about which Paul writes. Teach me to be more like the Father in your parable of the two sons who is ready to rejoice freely when I discover what was lost is now found once again. Give me the joy of your salvation.”

Jesus tells the story of the prodigal son to the Pharisees who question him about eating with tax collectors and sinners. These are the newer members of the family of faith who are invited by Jesus, but to the Pharisees they look selfish, greedy, lacking social morals and rebellious. The Pharisees have done all things well and kept the commands dutifully, never asking for anything more just like the older son. How do these two sides coexist without resentment? What sort of father (God) would welcome such people into his home and give them the most luxurious food and drink? How can he embrace them with such love and gratitude? After all, they insulted him by demanding their inheritance early and making the father vulnerable.

Our tension seems to be whether we can come to our senses when we realize that God’s love is ever-expanding and drawing us deeper into an embrace. The younger son wakes up and comes home, finds himself forgiven and is able to forgive others. The story ends before we are sure if the older son eventually gives in, but our imagination holds that he will in light of his father’s goodness. As he severely judges his brother, he falls victim to his own self-centeredness. We do know that God will not stop trying to embrace both sons, especially the one who clings to resentment. God will wait for us though. He will wait as long as it takes so that he can share his joy with all his children. Maybe this is why this reading is chosen for Laetare (Rejoice) Sunday. God rejoices because the lost has been found, but God is still waiting for others to return.

Quote for the Week

In honor of the Irish saint, I place the words of Patrick before you to the tune of “Morning Has Broken.”

This day God gives me strength of high heaven,
Sun and moon shining, flame in my hearth,
Flashing of lightning, wind in its swiftness,
Deeps of the ocean, firmness of earth.

This day God sends me strength to sustain me,
Might to uphold me, wisdom as guide.
Your eyes are watchful, your ears are listening,
Your lips are speaking, friend at my side.

Gods’ way is my way, God’s shield is round me,
God’s host defends me, saving from ill.
Angels of heaven, drive from me always
All that would harm me, stand by me still.

Rising, I thank you, mighty and strong One,
King of Creation, Giver of rest,
Firmly confessing Threeness of Persons,
Oneness of Godhead, Trinity blest.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: Isaiah reveals God’s creative energy is Israel’s restoration by rejoicing in Jerusalem and exulting in God’s people. No longer shall the sound of weeping be heard there. Ezekiel sees that the Temple is the salvation for all people. The Lord reminds the people of his covenant and promises to restore the land. The Lord send Moses down from the mountain to the people to command them to turn from their depraved ways as they forgot the miracles the Lord has done for them. Moses intercedes for the people asking the Lord to relent from his punishment.

Gospel: Belief is the key to discipleship in John’s Gospel; the royal official believes that Jesus will heal will deathly ill son and his son recovers immediately. Likewise, the sick man at the pool near the Sheep Gate is healed. When the Jews discover Jesus was the healer, they plan to prosecute him. In his defense, Jesus tells the Jews that he will not accuse them, but Moses, the one in whom they trust, will be the one to do so. As people discuss the identity and nature of Jesus, they search the scriptures to see if any prophet has arisen from Galilee. “The Christ will not come from Galilee, will he?”

Saints of the Week

Wednesday: Patrick was born in Wales in Britain in 385 and at the age of 16 was captured and sold as a slave where we worked as a shepherd in Ireland. After his escape at age 22, he became a priest and later a bishop. He returned to Ireland and converted many to Christianity. He faced threats from the pagans, but Christianity had reached nearly all of the country by the time of his death. He established native clergy to continue the sacraments and the evangelization of the faith.

Thursday: Cyril of Jerusalem (313 CE) was a biblical scholar who became Bishop of Jerusalem in 350. He was always under antagonistic attacks from the Arians and was mired in the doctrinal controversies discussed at the Councils of Nicea (325), which set out a common creed, and of Constantinople (381), which confirmed his jurisdiction over Jerusalem. Cyril wrote Lenten homilies for those who were to be baptized.

Friday: Joseph is honored for his role as husband of Mary today. He is known as a carpenter or builder whose skill was useful to the local community and Matthew tells us he is a descendent from David’s lineage. Joseph holds an awkward place in our imagination as he becomes the father of Jesus, born on virginal conception. His assent to take on Mary as his wife reveals his righteous and just nature.

This Week in Jesuit History

• Mar 14, 1535. Ignatius received his degree from the University of Paris.
• Mar 15, 1632. The death of Diego Ruiz, a great theologian, who studied on his knees.
• Mar 16, 1649. The martyrdom in Canada of John de Brebeuf, apostle to the Huron Indians. Captured by the Iroquois along with some Christian Hurons, he endured horrible tortures.
• Mar 17, 1964. The death of Joseph O'Callahan. He was awarded the US Medal of Honor for heroism as chaplain on the USS Franklin, off Japan on March 19, 1945.
• Mar 18, 1541. Two letters arrived from Lisbon from Francis Xavier. One was addressed to Ignatius, the other to Frs. LeJay and Laynez. They were written just before his departure to India.
• Mar 19, 1836. By imperial decree, the Society was allowed to re-enter the Austrian dominions.
• Mar 20, 1602. The first "Disputatio de Auxiliis" was held before Clement VIII. The disputants were Fr. Gregory de Valentia, S.J. and Fr. Diego Alvarez, O.P.

Scrutinies and Penance

The elect of the Church, the catechumen and candidates, are intensely preparing for the Easter sacraments. They are subjected to the Scrutinies, both by the community and by God, to determine if they are sufficiently ready to live by the faith that we confess. The elect will hear selected Gospel readings that will intensify their preparedness as we approach Holy Week and Easter. Last week, the elect heard John’s story of the Samaritan woman searching for the water that quenches ones thirst, today they hear John’s story of the man born blind, next Sunday they will hear John’s account of the raising of Lazarus.

Fully professed Catholics are also preparing for Easter as we continue our journey through Lent by focusing our gaze upon Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem. As we observe and imitate his life, we are called to deeper reflection upon our sinfulness and upon the ways in which we receive God’s grace. At this point in Lent (Laetare Sunday), we quicken our reflection. It is a good time for us to ask the Lord to reveal to us where sin is present in our lives. The sacrament of Reconciliation puts our moral lives in order so that our hearts and souls can receive the newness of the Risen Lord in his Paschal victory.


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