March 6, 2016

Laetare

March 6, 2016:  Fourth Sunday of Lent / Laetare Sunday

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God gives us freedom to make mistakes but always welcomes us back with open arms.  Jesus teaches us to be merciful just as the Father is, and he warned against pride and arrogance that self-righteousness can bring.  The Lord welcomes all who recognize their sinfulness.  God loves us immeasurably and comes towards us with tenderness when we approach him after having wandered.  He welcomes us and restores our dignity as God’s children.

God bless the four Missionaries of Charity and 12 others just killed in Yemen, martyrs and victims of indifference.

3rd Lenten Reflection on the Word of God, continued from yesterday
Papal preacher Fr. Cantalamessa
How to become evangelizers
How do I become an evangelizer?  First, as God told Abraham, “Leave your country and go”; being sent requires leaving.  The first door we need to exit is that of our “I.”  Jesus calls his collaborator, “Go; leave your ‘I’ behind; deny yourself.  Everything belongs to me now.  Your life is changing, my face is becoming yours.  You no longer live but I in you.”  It's how to overcome envy, jealousy, fear, rancor, resentment, and antipathy; we need to be “indwelt” by the gospel to spread its scent.
The Bible offers us the image of eating a book:  "A hand was stretched out to me with a scroll in it; he spread it before me....  He said to me, 'Eat what is offered you; and go, speak to Israel.'  He gave me the scroll to eat:  'Fill your stomach with it.'  I ate it; and it was sweet." (see also Rev 10: 8-10.)
There's a difference between the word of God studied and the word first “eaten” and assimilated.  In the first case the preacher doesn't reach hearts; only what comes from the heart reaches the heart.  The author of Rev brings us a variation:  the book was sweet on his lips but bitter in his stomach.  Before the word can wound hearers, it must wound the preacher, prompting him to conversion.  This can't be done in a day, but every day we can decide to live for the Lord, not ourselves.  We can't on our own; it's a work of grace, a fruit of the Spirit.  We pray “that we might live no longer for ourselves but for him who died and rose again for us, he sent the Holy Spirit from you, Father, as the first fruits for those who believe” (Eucharistic Prayer IV).
To obtain the Spirit with a view to evangelization, see how Jesus and the Church obtained the Spirit:  “When Jesus had been baptized and was praying, heaven was opened, and the Spirit descended upon him.”  Jesus’ prayer opened the heavens and made the Spirit come down, and the same happened to the apostles:  The Spirit came upon them at Pentecost while they “devoted themselves to prayer.”
Two dangers can impede renewed missionary commitment:  One is laziness, letting others do the work; the other is launching into activity on a human level that results in losing contact with the word and its efficacy, setting yourself up for failure.  The more you do, the more you should pray.  Time is limited, but the one who multiplied the loaves can also multiply time!   “But how can you pray and not run when the house is on fire?”  True. but what if firefighters go to a fire without water in their tanks?  That's what we do when we preach without praying:  our words are empty and don't reach anyone.  (to be continued)
Read
  • Jos 5:9a, 10-12  “Joshua, I've removed Egypt's reproach from you.”  While the Israelites were encamped, they celebrated Passover, then ate unleavened cakes and parched grain, and the manna ceased.  They now ate of the yield of the land.
  • Ps 34:2-7  "Taste and see the goodness of the Lord."  I'll always praise the Lord.  The lowly will hear and be glad.  Glorify the Lord with me.  He answered my call and delivered me from fear and distress.  Look to him and be radiant with joy.
  • 2 Cor 5:17-21  Whoever is in Christ is new:  the old has passed away, and the new has come.  It's from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.  So we're ambassadors for Christ.  Be reconciled to God, who for our sake made the one who didn't know sin to be sin, so we might become God's righteousness in him.
    Return of the Prodigal Son/ Guercino
  • Lk 15:1-3, 11-32  The Pharisees and scribes complained:  “This man welcomes sinners....”  Jesus addressed to them this parable:  “A man had two sons.  The younger said, ‘Give me my share of your estate.’  So he did, and the son squandered it on a life of dissipation, then was in dire need.  So he hired himself out to tend swine.  When nobody gave him food, he thought, ‘My father’s workers have food while I'm dying from hunger.  I'll return to him and say, “I've sinned.  Treat me as one of your workers.”’  On his way back, his father saw him, ran to him, and embraced him.  His son told him, ‘I've sinned against heaven and you; I no longer deserve to be called son.’  But his father ordered his servants, ‘Put the finest robe on him.  Slaughter the fattened calf, and let's celebrate, because my son was dead and came to life; lost and was found.’  The older son, hearing music on his way back from the field, asked a servant what it meant.  ‘Your brother returned and your father slaughtered the fattened calf because he's safe.’  When, angry, he refused to enter, his father pleaded with him.  He told his father, ‘All these years I served and obeyed you, but you never threw me a party.  But when your son returns from swallowing your property with prostitutes, you slaughter the fattened calf.’ / ‘Son, you're always with me; all I have is yours.  But now we must rejoice, because your brother was dead and has come back to life, was lost and is now found.’”
Reflect
    • Creighton:  "The tenderness of mercy":  In the Prodigal Son parable, the meeting of the father and his repentant son moves us.  The embrace and kiss show more than a “distant forgiveness” or simple reconciliation; the younger son receives more than he could have imagined.  Pope Francis wants the world to know God's mercy.  “Only someone who has encountered mercy, caressed by its tenderness, is happy and comfortable with the Lord...  The privileged locus of encountering God is the caress of Jesus' mercy on my sin....” 
    • One Bread, One Body:  "The prodigals' victims":  If someone raped and murdered your daughter and then repented, would you attend a party in honor of the repentant rapist-murderer?  You'd likely grow angry and not go in.  There are many repentant rapists, murderers, persecutors, and people formerly filled with arrogance.  God constantly throws parties for his returned prodigal children and invites their victims to come.  Only by accepting God's grace to forgive will victims be able to come.  They'll see not only the horror of sin but also the glory of repentance and forgiveness.  They'll see God, the Victim who is not a prodigal.
    • Passionist:  "Have I been merciful like the Father?"  Through the sacrament of reconciliation we can bring our sins to God and be forgiven, but days later we can be back where we started.  And am I willing to forgive others the way I've been forgiven?  Today's gospel calls us to be merciful like the Father.  We can relate to each main character in the parable:  the prodigal son when we fall away from God and struggle to come back, the older son when we don't want to forgive, and the father as we show mercy.  “I'm the son of a compassionate father.  I'm an heir” (Nouwen, The Return of the Prodigal Son).  As our Father's heirs, we're called to show the mercy we're given, forgiving others, opening our arms and heart, and just loving.
    • DailyScripture.net:  "I'll go home to my father":  When God commanded his people to celebrate the Passover, he wanted them not to forget how he freed them from oppression and brought them to the promised land.  After they wandered 40 years, Joshua, Moses' successor, led them in celebrating the Passover in the promised land.  This crossing over from slavery to freedom foreshadows the freedom Jesus won for us through the cross.  Jesus illustrates this passing over with the prodigal son parable.  Jesus contrasts the elder son's cold reception for his brother with the father's warm embrace.  The father maintained his love.  The son realized his father had given him love he hadn't returned.  He hoped for reconciliation but couldn't have imagined his welcome and reinstatement, foreshadowing the resurrection and new life Jesus offers believers.  The parable also contrasts mercy and unforgiveness:  the wronged father forgave, but the older son, who wasn't wronged, didn't.  His resentment leads to his isolation and estrangement.  God doesn't lose hope when we stray.  He rejoices in welcoming us home.
    Dress legend
    • 'Wheat' pin:  They ate grain produced from the land (1st reading)
    • 'Eyeball' pin:  Father saw younger son returning (gospel); look to God... (psalm)
    • 'Jubilee year' pin:  ...and be radiant with joy (psalm)
    • 'Phone' tie bar:  When the poor one 'called,' the Lord heard (psalm); older son 'called' a servant (gospel)
    • 'Abacus' tie pin:  The father 'divided' the property between his two sons (gospel)
    • 'Money' tie:  Younger son squandered his inheritance (gospel)
    • 'Pigs' suspenders:  Younger son worked tending swine (gospel)
    • Ring, sandals (not shown):  "Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet" (gospel)
    • 'Cow' pin:  "Slaughter the fattened calf..." (gospel)
    • 'Silverware' tie bar:  "...then let's celebrate with a feast" (gospel)
    • 'Treble clef' pin:  Older son heard music (gospel)
    • 'Clock' tie bar:  Older son:  "I served you all these years..." (gospel)
    • Rose-colored shirt:  today's liturgical color