Whole Again

03-31-2019Pastoral ReflectionsFr. Brian F. Manning

Are you aware that our faith tradition, the Judeo-Christian tradition, is historically based in many, but not all ways. When we think about it, the written words of the bible help trace and express the development of our relationship and experience with God. This particular way makes us distinct from a singularly nature-based religious tradition. This weekend our scripture very much deals with the issue of nature and the arrival of Spring at the vernal equinox. The scripture is addressing the newness of life which occurs around this time. On this day of true balance, daylight and darkness are equal, and each day thereafter, the daylight is greater than the darkness. This is Spring for us and this is the time for nature to recreate the dormant world. For many of us this is also a time for the re-creation of our human spirit. Lent is now half way through and we can sense that we are becoming part of a new creation as our Spring starts to suggest.

Our Old Testament reading is about a Passover celebration. At this point in our history and story, the almost forty-year wandering in the desert is finally over and the Promised Land of Canaan is right before everyone. This Land, in contrast to the dry desert, is full of life giving water, which can also maintain life. It is an ideal place to settle. At the edge of this wonderful land and new beginning, the people pause to celebrate the great event of their past—Passover. Their future is this newly seen Promised Land that will be their permanent home and that will give food and life to one and all. This land is a fulfillment of the Promised Land. The dream now becomes real. And the best is yet to come. We, says Paul in the second reading, are a new creation. The old desert-dry life before Christ is over and done. In him and in his death and resurrection, we are all new.

Paul advises us to be the ambassadors of reconciliation to the whole world. We are a new creation that is not meant for us alone. The waters of baptism make us part of Christ who has won redemption for us. Bear in mind that our Gospel passage is central in understanding that we identify with the forgiven son and yet hear and know the question of the other son. Note how the brother complains about his younger brother to his father by calling him in particular “your son.” Indeed we all know this reading by heart. Most of us have known it since we were very young. We heard and learned about this story for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We usually identified with the forgiven son. We were happy as young people to know that God would forgive us as the father forgave his wayward son.

We know from the story that there is also a problem with the other son, the faithful and seemingly overlooked one who stayed home and was simply good. Hearing all the hoopla at the family home and learning that his brother had returned did not make him happy at all. This older faithful son complained to his father that he had worked faithfully without recognition or reward, much less had ever had a party of this magnitude. “Is this fair or right?” he really asks. Realize that this son forgot his brother and that the father never did and never would. Realize that the father’s love was never any less for the faithful son. The father simply wanted his elder son, whom he loved and trusted and depended on, to rejoice because the family was whole again.

The Church in many ways this Sunday is like a family celebration. It rejoices in its dependable faithful members; it rejoices in the return of those who have strayed. There is new life again, just as Spring brings new life. We need to remember that the church is not reward only for the “good”; it is our home for the bad and the good. In any season and any condition we must all welcome everyone.

Father Brian