Sunday, March 31, 2019

Taste and See

“Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.” Laetare Sunday, is a Sunday of rejoicing over God’s goodness- in the Gospel parable of the goodness of the father in relation to his two sons, in the joy of a homecoming, and in God’s goodness in reconciling us to himself in Christ. Let us taste and see this goodness, especially in the mystery of reconciliation.

Reconciliation is a great mystery. It begins with brokenness, but ends in peace. It passes through suffering, but gives new life. The younger son had a legal right to his inheritance. But the expectancy was that he would reserve some of it to care for his father. Instead, he once he got what he wanted, he walked out: no obligations, no regrets, and, we might say, no heart. On the other hand, the older son murmured his life away. His stability was like a chain around his leg. He outwardly obeyed his father’s commands, but inwardly resented them. Their broken relationships eventually became evident, as it does for us all.

But that is precisely where God’s goodness is revealed – in brokenness. But how? What does he do to re-establish harmony? The father of the two sons gives us an answer – he gives his son the freedom to choose, to act freely and to be responsible for his actions. No relationship is possible without this freedom and responsibility, and God made that possible for us when he created us in his image and likeness. But he does not stop there. While he always takes the first step in reconciliation, he knows that we cannot be passive bystanders. We have to use our freedom rightly. We have to choose to come home. So while he waits patiently for us, he provides another indispensable gift – a guide for the journey home.

We could hardly find a more moving homecoming than that of the younger son. He came to himself; he repented; he got up and went back to his father. There is another homecoming mentioned in today’s Liturgy: the return of Joshua and the Israelites to the Promised Land. The Israelites had been in the desert for 40 years, marching like heroes at times, but at other times longing for the cucumbers of Egypt. No sooner had their covenant with God been sealed than they broke it by fashioning a golden calf. Even Moses was not permitted to lead them into the Promised Land. It was Joshua who would do it. 

Mysteriously the same goes for us. We are not passive in the work of reconciliation. We must follow the new Joshua whom God in his goodness has given to us, that is, his only Son, Our Lord Jesus. Jesus leads us into the spiritual combat. He comes to our aid when we are being overwhelmed. He celebrates the Passover with us, his own Passover, and gives us his own body and blood to strengthen us. Finally, he exhorts us to use our freedom responsibly and not to receive the grace of God in vain. The journey home may be a long one, but with the new Joshua to lead us, we will arrive. We have only to follow him.

Finally, we see the goodness of God in these magnificent words of St. Paul: “Whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come…” This is the work of the Holy Spirit. It is hard to fathom, but he makes us a new creation. Without the Holy Spirit we could not follow the new Joshua. Without the Holy Spirit the image of God in us – our freedom and responsibility – would never mature. Reconciliation makes us a new creation, and this is all the work of God. We were dead and have come to life again; we were lost and have been found. 
Excerpts from today's homily by Father Vincent.