Rejoice for Those Who are Faithful and Those Who Return

03-27-2022Letters From Fr. BrianRev. Brian F. Manning

Sometimes people forget that our faith tradition, which is called the Judeo-Christian Tradition, is based in history and is the story of the experiences of God and human kind. The written words which are in the Bible that we call Sacred Scripture tell the various stories or “narrative” of this experience. We are not what are called a “nature based” religious tradition. We do, however, include within our experiences nature and all its wonder and power.

At this point in the calendar, we have now approached the days when there is almost equally balanced day and night hours. As we shift to more light hours, the newness of Spring will be influencing us. The Vernal Equinox, which is used to determine the celebration of Easter, is now upon us. As the brilliant sun gains strength and power each day, the earth comes alive again and new life starts all around us. Easter, a true Spring time event, will soon be upon us. The darkness of winter soon will be just a memory.

Note in the first reading from the Old Testament that we read about a Passover celebration. The ever so long trek through the hot and endless desert is finally over and the Promised Land of Canaan with its new and wonderful life is now in full sight. This Promised Land is a life-giving land of water which can easily support all human life. It is a land where roots may grow deep into the earth. At the start of their new and future life, the Jews pause to celebrate the memorable great event of their past - Passover. From this day forward as they celebrate, they anticipate a life of health and happiness. They will no longer wait for the manna to fall each night. Their hopes and dreams will now come true in this new land.

Our reading from Saint Paul announces that we are a new creation. The old life before Christ is over and done with forever. In Him and in His death and Resurrection, we are indeed all new. Paul pleads with his listeners and readers to accept this new responsibility. We must be ambassadors of Christ for the reconciliation to the whole world. Saint Paul is telling us clearly that the new creation, which we now have become part of at the time of our baptism, is not for us alone. We do not stand triumphant on our own; rather our redemption is for all of us together.

The Gospel reading offers for many of us identification with the forgiven son. We are relieved that our God has forgiven and will forgive us our sins. There is, however, the matter of the faithful and seemingly overlooked son who stayed home and helped his father. When he comes home and finds out that his brother had returned and everyone was rejoicing, he complained to his father. Note he called his brother “your son.” The elder son complained to his father that he had worked faithfully without recognition or reward, much less a party of this magnitude. This angry son wanted to know why. Sadly, the son had forgotten his brother; the father had not and never would. Nor was the father’s love any less for the faithful son. The father simply wanted his elder to rejoice because the family was whole again. The father loved both of them deeply.

The Church this Sunday is really all of us celebrating and rejoicing. We celebrate and rejoice for those who are faithful and for those who return. We must remember as Pope Francis constantly reminds us that the Church is not a reward for the virtuous; it is a shelter, a home or a hospital for the weak, lost or sinful. And that includes all of us.