Sunday, March 10, 2013

Laetare Sunday

Got back from retreat last night.  Went to the College of the Holy Cross to stay in the Jesuit community.  It was a good retreat enhanced very much by the setting.  Prior to this I only spent a total of 6 days at Holy Cross in 16 years, three of which were the triduum before first vows.  Our timing was good in that it was spring break meaning that campus and the community were both very quiet.

Holy Cross has interesting geography.  Beautiful campus built into the side of a steep bluff overlooking Worcester.  Holy Cross students don't have to go to the gym to stay in shape.  All they have to do is go to class.  I've never seen so many sets of stairs built into hillsides.  This is one steep campus.

The retreat ended on a high note.  What was supposed to be a few inches of snow turned into 28+!  Weston got 20 and Boston a bit over a foot.   By Friday night the skies were clearing and then Saturday was glorious.  Because I could not find my tripod prior to leaving Boston there are few pix inside the chapel (found it upon returning home).  All in all a good retreat.

Celebrated Mass this morning for the first time during the sede vacante.  Definitely required concentration to skip the line about the pope during the Eucharistic Prayer.  Probably won't be much easier inserting a new name in a few days hence (one hopes).

Homily followed by photos from retreat.

4th Sunday of Lent (Laetare Sunday)
Jos 5:9a, 10-12
Ps 34:2-7
2 Cor 5:17-21
Lk 15:1-2, 11-32

Laetare Jerusalem . . . .

“Rejoice Jerusalem, and all who love her.
Be joyful all who were in mourning
exult and be satisfied at her consoling breast.”

Lent has passed the mid-point. The penitential sense of the season recedes just a bit.  It is a chance to catch our breath, a chance to look back upon our observance of Lent thus far and to prepare for the commemoration of  Jesus’ passion, death, and resurrection.  All three of today’s readings juxtapose rejoicing and forgiveness, particularly the first reading and the familiar Gospel parable of the Prodigal Son.

The Israelites had reason to rejoice.   Having ended thirty days of mourning after Moses’ death, Joshua led them into the Promised Land, toward which they had been moving for forty years.  “Today I have removed the reproach of Egypt from you.”  Their punishment at an end they ate a Passover meal from the produce of the land they had been given.  They no longer needed the manna with which God had fed them on their journey.  It never appeared again.  They were home. 

The parable of the prodigal son is more than simply familiar.  Along with the Good Samaritan, the prodigal son has transcended its roots in Luke’s Gospel to become a figure of speech that is used and understood by Christians, non-Christians, and even those atheists who are hostile to all things smacking of faith. 

The prodigal son is a challenging parable.  It can be read and analyzed on many levels.  It is rich with characterization, motives, actions and reactions.  Psychiatrists can have a field day treating this gospel as a case study evaluating the personalities  and behaviors of the various actors in the drama. 

We may see ourselves if we meditate on the story.  Perhaps we want the immediate gratification of the younger son. Maybe we identify with the fury and resentment of the dutiful elder son who perceived that he never had any fun. 
We may even see some identification with the local citizen who said, “Sure kid, slop the hogs.  But don’t eat any of the slop.”  We probably all can identify with the prodigal’s regret at having followed a wrong path, at having chosen stupidly.   The hookers and hangers-on were there when the money flowed.  But they were gone when the cash dried up. 

The greatest importance of the the parable of the prodigal son, however, is not as a social or psychiatric case study.  This very familiar parable  reveals the depth of God’s love and mercy for us.  It reveals God’s forgiveness once we have confessed that we are sinners in need of that forgiveness.

The father loved the son enough to let him go out on his own, well financed and provisioned.  The rest was up to the boy.  The son rejoiced in his new freedom, not unlike a kid moving away from home for the first time.  Finally he could  carouse, party,  make noise, and sleep around.  And he did.  The money was gone fast.  Only when he hit rock-bottom did he yearn for his father’s love.  Only when broken and wretched did he want to return to the safety of home.  Having squandered all he had been given, he swallowed his pride, admitted his wretched state to himself and journeyed back, prepared to be treated not like a son, not like an heir, but as one of the hired help.  But at least he would be able to eat. 

The prodigal did not know how desperate his father was for him to return. He had no idea how his father would rejoice when he began his journey home.  The son had been lost and now was found.  Like the Israelites, he was home.

As is often the case in Jesus’ parables, the story does not have a definite ending. There is no resolution or happily ever after.  This parable, like many others, is like seeing only two acts of a three-act play, or finding that the last chapter of an Agatha Christie who-dunnit has been ripped from the book.   We don’t know how the prodigal son acted once he returned and was back into the routine.  We don’t know if his angry older brother reconciled with him.  All we know is that his father forgave him.  And welcomed him back.

God endowed us with free will and allowed us to go out on our own, well-financed and provisioned.  Like the prodigal son we mess up to the point of desperation and despair.  But like the father in this parable God forgives us and welcomes us back again and again, more effusively than anything the prodigal’s father could have done, once we admit our need for His love, confess our sins, and amend our lives.  Thus, Paul can confirm, “God has reconciled us to himself through Christ and given us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ.”

Laetare Jerusalem. . .
gaudete cum laetitia,
qui in tristitia fuistis

Rejoice Jerusalem . . .
Be joyful
All who were in mourning
The stained glass in the Jesuit Community Chapel is beautiful.  The colors are very saturated, more so than the camera (or some toying with Aperture 3 can make them).  When the sun is coming through the windows  the chapel is flooded with warm color.  The first photo is a close up of the window behind the altar while the second is a wide-angle of the chapel. 

My first foray onto campus was before the blizzard on the only sunny day before  week of unrelenting clouds. 

 The statue of St. Ignatius in a niche in front of the chapel.  The eyes are amazing. 
I wish I'd had the tripod.  Could have taken photos inside chapel at a much lower ISO.   The organ at Holy Cross is world class.  It is frequently heard on radio broadcasts of organ recitals.  This is not a small chapel. 
The chapel at dusk on Friday night after the snow and wind stopped.  The lights of Worcester are in the distance.  
Finally Saturday morning after the blizzard.  Lots of snow.  The temps went into the mid-40's.  By the time Ignatius and I left to return to Campion (via dinner in Cambridge) the Mass Pike was dry. 
+Fr. Jack, SJ, MD

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