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Laetare Sunday March 2010

 
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Fr.Paul Weinberger
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Joined: 06 May 2005
Posts: 199
Location: Greenville, Texas

PostPosted: Sun Mar 21, 2010 11:23 am    Post subject: Laetare Sunday March 2010 Reply with quote

Laetare Sunday 2010
Homily by: Fr. Paul Weinberger
St. William the Confessor Catholic Parish
Greenville, Texas

He said to him, "My son, you are here with me always and everything I have is yours, but now 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 Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit
Amen

The biggest problem we probably have with this Gospel is that we have heard it so often. We love this Gospel but because it is so familiar it can loose its healing impact.

If you have the Holy Father's book, Jesus of Nazareth, on page 202 there starts about ten pages dedicated to this Parable. If you don't have this book yet you ought to ask for it as a birthday or other celebratory gift. It is excellent because the Pope writes about so many important Gospels and he gives some very helpful insights. The Holy Father, like the Ignatius Study Bible, sees this Parable more appropriately called the Parable of the Two Brothers, because from the beginning we see the same kind of things happening again and again with Cain and Able, Jacob and Esau, as well as the two brothers we speak of today.

In the First Reading we heard that even in the case of Israel, when they entered the Promised Land after the Passover, they ate of the produce of the land. The Manna, which had fed them for forty years, stopped. The Manna ceased once they had reached their inheritance; the Promised Land is their inheritance. The Twelve Tribes of Israel divided the land up amongst themselves and according to the size of each tribe. Each tribe had members and the members of the tribes each had their piece of this inheritance.

Last Sunday in the Second Reading, St. Paul's 1st Letter to the Corinthians, he talked about how God fed them in the desert for forty years. He said, "All ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink from the Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ." Saint Paul goes on to say that even though they drank the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink, it affected each one of them in a different way. He said, "God was not pleased with MOST of them." Wow! That was a real zinger and we get those often from St. Paul. Most of them were not pleasing to God and this should give each one of us pause. I am a Catholic priest and when I die, of course I am going straight to Heaven. Well, yeah, if that is in my power to say so but it is not in my power to say so; God has other teachings on the matter. Christ, through His Church teaches something very different. So, I have to construe according to the mind of Christ and His Church, not on something I made up or something someone else made up.


I also mentioned, from the Second Reading last Sunday, how Moses came down from the mountain with the Ten Commandments in his hands and he heard the sound of music and dancing. St. Paul uses this reference to Moses as he speaks to the people of Corinth, who are living essentially in the same kind of place as today's Las Vegas, or any large Western city. There was a pagan temple on every corner and the new Christians were wanting to go back to those old temples. Every temple had a different god but they all had the same format, which was eating and drinking to excess, which led to sexual immorality. It produces the same results; I don't care if you are in Alaska or the tip of South America. Eating and drinking to excess leads to sexual immorality, and St. Paul is using this to warn the people of Corinth because Moses came down the mountain and heard music and dancing and he found that they had fashioned a golden calf and were worshipping it as they did back in Egypt. They had been eating and drinking to excess and had given themselves over to sexual immorality, which is what the translation "dancing" is all about. Of course it is not hard to figure out looking at the way people dance today, right? On that day when Moses threw down and broke the Commandments, because the people had already broken them, three thousand Hebrews died. Wow, that is arresting! They died on the order of Moses and those who were standing with him.

Did you notice that in today's Gospel that the elder son is walking toward the house and he hears music and dancing and there is also a calf, but fortunately for us the calf in this Gospel is being BBQ-ed, which is something they would never do in Egypt because the Egyptians worshipped the bulls and cows; they mummified them. It was the Cult of Apis. So, here in this Gospel we have exactly what bulls are meant for, BBQ. The reason there is a BBQ is because there is rejoicing because the Prodigal son has returned home. The music and dancing translated here are symbolic of the rejoicing in heaven when one sinner returns to his rightful place among his brothers and sisters. In the New Testament Jesus says, "There is more rejoicing in Heaven over one repentant sinner than over ninety-nine, who have no need of repentance."

These two brothers have both been slaves. One is free and one is still a slave; the older brother is still a slave to his father, and we will get into that later. The Scribes and Pharisees see Jesus welcome sinners and eat with them. So, Jesus looks at the Scribes and Pharisees as elder brothers, altogether looking down on a younger brother.

In the Ignatius Study on the Parable of the Prodigal Son, the Gospel of St. Luke, mentions that the Twelve Tribes of Israel unified until after King Solomon died. The next King reigned from Jerusalem when Solomon died; those two tribes down south, Judah and Benjamin, which are essentially the same tribe, and the ten tribes from the north separated, separated because of high taxes. I am not making this up. Down South the King in Jerusalem ordered taxes to be raised, especially on those ten tribes to the North. They resented it and separated, which they couldn't do but did anyway and called themselves Israel. It wasn't long after that in 722 B.C. that the Assyrians came in and just scooped up the ten tribes from the North and took them to a far off land, and at the time of Jesus, they still haven't been heard from. The two tribes down South had been exiled later on but they were returned and they looked upon those ten tribes in the North as if those guys were still not returned to their inheritance because, well, they'd gone off to that foreign land and were making good money and probably worshipping pagan idols. They had nice homes and instead of returning to their inheritance, which is the Promised Land, they were voluntarily staying away. So, the two tribes down South that are considered as one are seen looking down on their younger brother, if you will. Scott Hahn writes it this way,

"After the reign of King Solomon, Israel split into two kingdoms becoming like two brothers living side by side in Northern Israel and Southern Judah. By the 8th century the Syrians had carried off the Northern tribes of Israel into a foreign country where they forsook God and worshipped idols; a sin the Prophets called harlotry."

A Jew, an Israelite worshipping idols, was like a prostitute; they were giving themselves over to prostitutes. So you see how Jesus is speaking to these men, who represent the two tribes down South and they are very sure of themselves. You see, these men are so self-assured because they have observed the law; they have obeyed the law and that is enough, that is all they had to do, is to dot the "i"s and cross the "t"s. Obey the law and I am going to Heaven. Jesus has something else to say about that, as only Jesus could.

St. Therese' of Lisieux, the Little Flower, is a favorite of mine and many of you have read Story of A Soul and other works; she is a Doctor of the Church and very early, when she entered the convent there were about 15 nuns inside the walls of the cloister. They are all there voluntarily and are all praying. Once she was talking to the priest in Confession and......"What? What does she have to confess, she lives in a convent?" And this is before TV, right? So, Therese' is in Confession and she is telling the priest that she is struggling with God's justice. Her Confessor has spoken to her about this before and so he told her, "If justice is what you want, justice is what you will get from God, but if it is mercy that you want then mercy is what you will get from God." She did a 180; no she didn't do a 360. I hear that all the time on the radio. [laughter] She did a 180 and after that she never went back. She dedicated herself to the mercy of God and made herself and ambassador of Christ in a ministry of reconciliation.

That Second Reading today is almost garbage because we hear that kind of talk all the time, "Blah, blah, blah, blah." Ministry this, reconciliation that...it really means something. St. Therese' understood what it meant and she tapped into that great mystery known as Divine Mercy and she never went back.

In the last forty years or so we have to recognize that there has been a rupture; like the Prodigal Son leaving and going to a far off land, many Catholics around the world have gone their own way when it comes to the Sacrament of Confession, which is also know as the Sacrament of Penance and the Sacrament of Reconciliation, which is the latest and perhaps the best title. A lot of Catholics today have just opted out and say, "No thanks, I don't care for liver or Confession." As if we have a choice! We forget the very first words of Christ after His Passion, Death, and Resurrection. The first words of Christ on Easter Sunday evening as they are gathered in the Upper Room with the doors and windows closed were, "Peace be with you." Then he breathes upon them and says, "Receive the Holy Spirit; the sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven. The sins you shall hold bound, they are held bound." It is as if many have plugged their ears and have done what children do, "Na, na, na, na, can't hear ya!" We have to admit that there have been bad teachings or no teachings on Confession. The other thing is that lay people can't go to Confession to each other. Well, they can but they cannot give themselves absolution. Mother Teresa went to Confession every day. What? Did she have a gambling habit? Pope John Paul II went weekly. What? What is that about? I would go to Confession every day if my Confessor lived closer; he keeps moving further and further away, leaving no forwarding number for me but I find him. I track him down and find him. [Laughter] I would go every day if I could.

Let us think about Confession, wiping the slate clean and think about Confession according to the mind of Christ and his Church, not something someone in your family or elsewhere has made up, not something maybe your priest told you, as he was winking at you. Something like, "We don't really believe this Confession stuff." Isn't it interesting that Pope John Paul II referred to the Sacrament of Confession often as the Sacrament of Divine Mercy. But, when it comes to Confession and we say, "No thank you," then we turn and face God's justice. Absolute horror should be the response to God's justice. Let me show you an example of this.

About 500 years ago a Catholic priest in Germany, Father Martin Luther, when he left the Catholic Church and began what is known as the Protestant Revolt, Protestant Revolution, or the Protestant Reformation, known by all three among Protestants, the first thing to get sliced off during the Protestant Revolution was the Sacrament of Confession and what became the topic that so absorbed them then and to this very day? Justification! Justification sounds like it comes from the same root, justice. If you are talking among Protestant Christians they will go on and on about justification. If we turn from Divine Mercy there is only one option and it is either "A" or "B". You see the two options embodied in these two sons, the Prodigal Son and the son, who is the elder brother, who seems to be saying, "This ain't fair; look what he has done with all of his and now he comes back." This brother wants justice. The other was a slave to his passion and the elder is a slave to his justice, and they were both far off but one returned.

Now, the Prodigal Son has been feeding the pigs. I know this is going to surprise many kids here, but back when I was a kid, when you went home after school you went outside to play. I know, it is hard to imagine going outside to play. Parents had to say things, especially to their sons, like this, "Now you need to be back home for dinner at 6:00. I want you here then." Parents gauged that in a special way because they knew if the child wasn't going to pay attention this 6:00 deadline that they would pay attention to this, their stomach would get them home. You know I never missed a meal! Isn't that probably part of the reason for the Prodigal Son? He is practicing his speech on the way home. "Father I have sinned against God and against you. No, no, let me scratch that one." He is writing this in the mud where the pigs are, right?

So, he starts his way home and is practicing his speech and the Gospel says that, "While he was still a long way off his father caught sight of him." I bet before his father ever saw him, he smelled him. "What is that? Ugh!" He'd been with the pigs, right? What the father does here is very interesting; he ran to his son. In that part of the world, a father in this age running anywhere would be a loss of dignity. The father didn't care about dignity and runs. Other translations say he threw himself upon the neck of his son and he covered his face with kisses. Then the son comes up with his speech. "Ahem, father I have sinned...father I have sinned against.." He gets part of the speech out and his father interrupts and starts to give orders. You can just hear the son, "I come back home and already he is giving orders! Now I remember why I left!" But, listen to the orders. He says to the servants, "Quickly, bring the finest robe and put it on him." Wait a minute, he hasn't even had a bath; he still has that pig stuff all over him! The finest robe? "Put a ring on his finger." These meant that he'd been restored to his place in the family automatically. It also says he ordered sandals for his feet. Slaves never wore shoes or sandals; a son or member of the family did. And instantly, there goes the calf! "Kill the fatted calf!" The father is giving orders and is saying that they must rejoice. "Let us celebrate with a feast because this son of mine was dead and has come to life again."

Today is Laetare Sunday. Laetare in Latin means, rejoice. That is why instead of a purple vestment there are rose colored vestments today. Rejoice. It should be obvious that we rejoice when the Prodigal Son comes home. But, Jesus is talking to Scribes and Pharisees that are snarling. "This man welcomes sinners and eats with them." Thanks be to God Jesus still welcomes sinners and eats with us, right? That is what He is doing right now, and that is why you came here tonight; Jesus welcomes sinners and eats with us. This is only the third Parable in St. Luke's Gospel, chapter 15. The first Parable just verses back from this one was about the shepherd, who loses one of his flock and goes in search of it and when he finds it he doesn't do what you and I might do; He doesn't drag it back by one ear or grumble while searching. He takes the lamb, puts it on his shoulders, and gathers everyone around saying that He found the sheep that was lost, rejoice! The second Parable after that is a woman who loses a coin and this was really a problem because it was back before St. Anthony was born; she had no one to pray to, [laughter] Instead she sweeps the house and finds the coin and calls all her friends in and has them rejoice with her.

Rejoicing over a sheep that is a lower animal, rejoicing over a coin even if it is solid gold, it is an inanimate object. Rejoice! Check. Rejoice! Check. Prodigal Son? Na, eh, eh! Right? That is what Jesus is telling his audience. It is obvious that we should rejoice. How much more important is a human being that has come to his senses and returns to God?

St. Therese is very helpful to you and me, especially in these days of Lent. We need to be restored, to be reconciled to God, and there is only one Person who can do it, and that is Jesus. We need to get back to Confession and shake the goofy things from our ears, things people might have told us and maybe even things that we have done ourselves, and recognize that if we deny ourselves in this life, the Sacrament of Confession, which is by God's design the ordinary means by which sins are removed after Baptism, then we are face to Face with God's justice. That's how we will live and that's how we will die. I prefer the mercy and so should you.

This Parable of the two brothers shows us a brother of mercy and a brother of slavery. His father has two sons but it could be worse, he could have two daughters and we all know daughters are harder to raise, right? I am kidding! This man is as patient as can be with his two sons; one is far away from him because he is a slave to his passions, one is close to him geographically but he is a slave in his own home.

We must see that the way to Heaven is through Divine Mercy, and if you and I are regular in receiving the Sacrament of Confession we will indeed make that second reading today make sense and it won't sound like a propositional paper or a grant proposal. It will sound as natural as can be because when we experience Divine Mercy on a regular basis in a Sacrament, we want to tell everyone about it. We don't want them just to hear about it, we want them to participate in Divine Mercy; Confession is the Sacrament of Divine Mercy.

He said to him, "My son, you are here with me always and everything I have is yours, but now 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 Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit
Amen
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