Sunday, June 16, 2019

The Preface of the Holy Trinity

As I have preached for a decade: "If you want to know what a feast day is about, read the preface." And that is all the more true when dealing with a tricky, highly-theological feast like Trinity Sunday. So, what do Catholics believe about this great mystery? Read. The. Preface.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Two Trees in the Garden

Was there one special tree in Eden, or two? Most of us picture that there is just one, but a close reading of the text suggests there are two: the tree of the knowledge of good and evil AND the tree of life. And even when Eve, the serpent, and God speak vaguely about trees, the Hebrew verb yadah reveals the emphasis. The tree of life disappears from the story, but reappears in the Heavenly Jerusalem. And later Christian reflection on the tree of life connects it with the cross of Jesus.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

God Himself Will Be Its Light

Revelation tells us that, surprisingly, the Heavenly Jerusalem doesn't have a temple. But, beyond surprisingly, the city doesn't have sun or moon either. God and the Lamb are its temple, and God's glory is its light, and the Lamb, its lamp. The promise of a temple that can't be destroyed and likewise that the glory of God is inseparable from that temple answers fears left in Jewish hearts since the days of Jeremiah and Ezekiel and the Babylonian Exile: "God will never leave us again; God himself will be our indestructible temple."

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Is the Crucifixion Worship?

Humility, obedience, and love are the heart of worship. In the Garden, those came easy. After the fall, they were difficult; they were sacrificial. On the cross, Jesus is completely sacrificial, but also truly humble, perfectly obedient, and unconditionally loving. Therefore the Crucifixion was the ultimate act of worship, and is the key to both the Lamb's liturgy in heaven and the Mass here on earth.

Is The Crucifixion Worship?

5th Sunday of Easter, Year C

In today's Gospel, at the Last Supper, Jesus talks about glory. What might have caught the disciples' attention there was a Jesus seems to be saying that God will be glorified in Jesus and that Jesus will be glorified in God himself. He in fact says, "If God is glorified in him God will also glorify him in himself." It's a fascinating image of them sharing the same glory. And yet there's also some sort of hierarchy amongst the two of them: who's the origin, and who's the recipient of this glory and things like that. 

We get it because we've heard of the Trinity, unlike the disciples. We are used to being told that there is difference and hierarchy amongst the persons, but there is also the unity and communion of the one true God. 

We saw this actually last week in the Book of Revelation, the second reading. I preached on how the Lamb in the Throne Room is both the one who leads all in worship of the One upon the throne and yet the Lamb also sits on the throne with the Ancient of Days. And he receives the same glory, honor, and blessing as the Lord God. Why? Because he was slain—we are told—therefore he is worthy. Take that, Thor! 

Alright. So the Lamb is both worthy of the same praise and yet he leads the praises going to the Father. That was actually the second time since Easter that I preached on heavenly worship has shown the Book of Revelation. You can look them up on the blog. You can listen to them there and stuff like that, but you don't have to have heard them to follow where we're going today. 

So this homily centers on a question that was asked after last week's homily and that is" "How is the Mass worship?" We say it is, but how exactly? It's a good question. I had to actually think a bit, and as I answered it it actually raised new questions. So there are really two questions to look at today on this idea of worship. 

So "worship" is a funny term. Its meaning can shift around in time, and shift with who the speaker is and who the audience is. We know there's a heavenly worship. That's what the Book of Revelation is all about with all these angels and elders, creatures and martyrs, falling down in worship of God. And that here on Earth, we can do worship too and we are called to do worship. We are called to do that as Christians. And we know that as Christians by definition we worship the one God, the Trinity. 

But how? And where? And when? Catholics don't actually say the word "worship" a whole lot. We rarely use in our advertising, in our bulletins and billboards and stuff like that. You go by other churches and you see it all the time. "Sunday Worship, 9 and 11 a.m." That's a pretty standard thing. So it raises the question: "Is just anything that we do—on Sunday, in a church—is that is that worship right there.? And again, in American English usage in 2019 most of us think of worship as being something about song and prayers, spontaneous praise, a sense of acclimation to God. Stuff like that. Which is definitely part of it, but sometimes that becomes "Oh that's what you mean when you say worship." Like Praise and Worship kind of stuff. 

I've mentioned before that I was in the Inter-Seminary Seminar in Philadelphia. We as seminarians joined seminarians from four other denominations and we would talk about topics. And this one time we had this long discussion about worship, and it mostly focused on music. And at the end of it I was kind of shamed when the Lutheran professor said, "I can't believe we had an hour long conversation about worship and the Catholics never mentioned the Eucharist once." And I was like, "Whoops. I think the botched that...". 

So yes, we tend to hear that word and we think of those sort of things. But for, you know, a thousand years or two, Catholics have continuously said the Sunday Eucharist is our worship. At least since the generation of St. Ambrose and St. Augustine, that's been clearly the understanding. So we say it, but how is the Mass worship? That's the first question of the two. How is the Mass worship? 

And this actually came up a little bit during the ad orientem discussion a year ago. Somebody asked a question after I said, "Well, part of it is that we're all worshipping in the same direction." And a person on the Internet said, "Surely Jesus was facing the apostles at the Last Supper, right?" Reasonable point. I think everyone agrees that he was. But realize Martin Luther brought up that same point. His point was that the Sunday Eucharist is this memorial of the Last Supper. And this becomes a defining feature of the Reformation for Luther and Calvin and Cranmer. They said: "It's the Last Supper only. It's the meal. It's the memorial of the meal. That's what you're doing. So do it more like that." Whereas Catholics said, "The Mass is not just the Last Supper. It's the Last Supper, and the Cross, and Easter Sunday, and the Ascension. All of those." Catholics say that Mass isn't just Holy Thursday. It's the worship of Good Friday too. 

Now that leads us to our second question, because a lot of Christians—Catholics and Protestants—would have heard that last sentence and not paused at all: this idea that you're worshipping because [the Mass] is Jesus on the cross. Catholics and Protestants might debate the Sunday Eucharist, but they tend to agree: the crucifixion was worship. "The crucifixion is worship. The Eucharist may be something else—a memorial of the Last Supper, etc.—but duh, of course the cross is Jesus' worship. Most Western Christians in the last 500 years would agree on that: that the crucifixion was Jesus' worship. In the last 50 years, some people got kind of scared of the cross and now run away from it so they might not say that, but overall, the totality of people would say, "Jesus on the cross is worshiping the Father."

Where does that idea come from? Well, you find it was an Old Testament references. Malachi 111. Chapter 1, verse 11 says, "For from the rising of the sun even to its setting my name will be great among the nations. And in every place, burnt offering will be offered to my name." So it's perfect worldwide worship through sacrifice. You'll actually hear that Malachi line quoted in Eucharistic Prayer 3 today. 

Then you come to the New Testament, and the Apostles see that [Malachi's prophecy] has been fulfilled. So in Romans 3:25 (I preached on this at Easter) "God presented the Messiah as a sacrifice of atonement in the shedding of His blood through faith." So he saying that Jesus' death was a sacrifice. Specifically a sacrifice like that found in temple worship. 

But there's kind of an unspoken mental jump there that we're making. Why is the cross worship? That's the second question: "Why was Jesus' death on the cross a kind of worship?" Even granting that the Mass may be Good Friday too, Why (or how) is the cross worship? It's a really legitimate question—though we don't usually think about it—that has some cool answers. 

We might reply. Well, duh, of course it's worship. It's a sacrifice. And practically everybody on the planet connects worship and sacrifice. That's true. In almost every culture, if we're going to go worship our God or gods, we take a goat for sacrifice, or we bring some human sacrifices of people we've captured, or like that. That's pretty standard. Yes, but why? Why do we do that, why do we connect sacrifice and worship as a human race? Why do we even non-Christians and non-Jews think the same way? Why will a tribe maybe bring its captives to be offered, Jews offer up sheep in the temple, and Catholics offer up Jesus' sacrifice on the cross. 

So let's think this through. So we've got our two questions out there. Why is the Mass worship? And why is the cross worship?  But now let's walk through the answer here. Take this step by step. 

First, let me ask you: What do we as human beings least like to do? And I think it goes something like this: What do we not want to do as humans? To be humble. To be obedient. And to be charitable—to be truly, unconditionally loving. Those are hard. And if my 39 years in this planet has taught me anything, it's that the tasks that I least want to do, are probably the ones I most [need] to do. Do you have that experience? I think we all have it. Usually it involves cleaning some part of the house we don't want to do. 

So we can probably bet that if humility, obedience, and charity (or love) are the hardest things for us to do, that probably means they're the most important virtues for us to grow in. We need to humble our pride, to do the things we don't want to do (obedience), and to love those that we don't want to love. 

But it wasn't always that way, right? So, step two. Let's go back into the garden. Let's go back to the beginning of creation. God makes the first humans and they instinctively worship him. It comes right out of their very being. And, lo and behold, the components of their worship, the things that burst out of them, the things that glorify God and that filled them with joy, are the very things that we just said are probably the most important [virtues] for us to have:. 

Humility. They knew, incredibly clearly, who they were: that they were creatures of a good, loving, creator God. They knew they were dependent on him. 

Obedience. It was obvious to them that God would have the best plan. So why wouldn't they just do what he told them to do? 

And then love or charity. Love was like the factory-default setting for them. That was how they were made. God loved them. They love God. They loved each other. Everything was hunky dory. 

So these three things filled them with worship there in the garden, and their worship of God increased those three virtues in them. At least for the first two chapters, right?

And then we know those things broke. That they failed at those. So that brings us to the third step here. What happens in that third chapter [of Genesis]? Not humility, but pride. Not obedience, but disobedience. Not love, but breaking from that love. And in fact even when you look at different definitions of original sin it's usually like, "Well, it might be a physical action but also it's our pride or it's our disobedience or it's our failure to love. It's those things." In the third chapter, they choose not to do that, which means their worship ceased. When they're no longer doing those three, they cease to worship. 

And because it's a cycle, without worship those virtues in them—humility, obedience, and love—also begin to shrink up. What were once the easy virtues of worship in Eden have now become....what? The hard work of sacrifice. Humility, obedience, and love are now hard, even painful. Therefore they are sacrificial. 

Whether people follow one God or many, the things of worship now feel difficult and sacrificial. If I have to give up my goat or give him the first fruits of my produce or whatever, that's hard. I feel like I'm losing something. But that instinct remains in humans that something about giving that away is worshipful. Something about surrendering that, is a kind of worship. 

And we see the Old Testament, God tells them specifically how to do that. Now if we're being honest a lot of that was straight obedience, right? God tells you to do it. And so you say, "Okay God I'll do it. I'll bring my sheep. I'll bring my turtledoves. I'll bring my goat or whatever." There was some humility because humility connects to thankfulness. And there's a sense of: "God, I didn't do these crops on my own. I didn't make these lambs healthy on my own. You did that. So yeah I'll give you the very best of the things that have grown up in my in my farm."

Love? There should have been love with it, but we get the impression that it wasn't always a thing of love. It was more a thing of obedience, and I just need to do this; it is what the Torah asks. 

Which brings us then to the fourth step. So, we haven't been faithful. We have failed in faithfulness. Adam and Eve failed in that. And then everyone after them fell in that as well. But what if someone were truly faithful? What if someone is actually faithful in all things. And that's what Paul and the other apostles insisted on: That Jesus comes along and he is the faithful one. He is the faithful servant to the end. He is the faithful Messiah. 

And so we look on the cross. And do we see that faithfulness lived out in those three virtues we talked about? You look at the cross. Do you see humility? Absolutely. Because you see humiliation: the Romans mocking him, the Jewish high priests mocking him, being stripped of his clothes, the pain, the suffering. We see total humility, total surrender right there. We even connect it with the idea of the lamb. You know we're told in Isaiah 53 that he went to his death like a lamb to the slaughter. That humility, that surrender going on there, is pretty clear. 

Obedience. The Book of Hebrews is obsessed with the obedience of Jesus. In fact it basically makes the case that it wasn't even his body and blood on the cross that mattered it was his will. The sheep goes to the slaughter because it's stupid. Right? The Lamb of God, the one leading heavenly worship, goes to its death by its choice. It willingly says, "Yes, Father I will follow you in all things. I will tell your truth in all places. And if that ticks people off and sends me to the cross, so be it. I'm obedient to the end and even on the cross I give my perfect 'yes' to the things you ask of me. It's the surrender of my will."

And then we look at the cross and do we see love? Absolutely. For most of us, that's the first thing we think of. We don't think of humility and obedience; we think of love. There's the love of one who said, "This person is a sinner and I still die for them." Paul tells us that even when we were yet enemies of God he sent his son to die for us. Perfect sacrificial. So the cross is ultimate humility, complete obedience, and sacrificial love even for us the unworthy. 

So it does all the things that are most sacrificial. But it also does all the things that at the beginning of time were worship (and that we had done imperfectly in worship since then). It does all those things. It has humility, it has obedience, and love. It is therefore complete worship and complete sacrifice. 

So hopefully that makes more sense of why we can say that the cross is Jesus' worship, and why we can say—if the Mass is us having Jesus' cross and sacrifice there to offer—that is our worship too. 

And yes he worshipped once on Good Friday on the cross, but as Revelation is telling us, he worships from all time in heaven as well—leading our worship. 

And then finally, to end with that line from the Gospel, [the cross] has both: it has that love—"love one another as I have loved you; they'll know you're my disciples by your love for one another." But he says that immediately after he says, "I will glorify the Father and he will glorify me." Love and glory, love and worship, are not separate. They are one and the same because sacrifice and worship go hand-in-hand as well. 

Monday, May 13, 2019

The Heavenly Throne Room

Sunday I focused on the second reading, from the Book of Revelation. I picked up a theme from two weeks ago: heavenly worship of God through, and alongside, the Lamb. I didn't mention it in the homily, but this with-but-through paradox of Trinitarian worship fits well with the Gospel too:
                                      John 10   →   Revelation 
1) "I give them eternal life" → "you purchased them with your blood"
2) "I know them; them follow me" → "the Lamb will shepherd them; they worship before the throne"
3) "The Father and I are one" → "to the One on the throne and to the Lamb, be blessing, honor, glory, and might."

Yes, we worship Jesus and God-incarnate, and yet Jesus leads us in worship of the Father.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Peter's Own Divine Mercy Sunday

1) Did you grow up hearing that the threefold "Do you love me?" was Jesus letting Peter take back his denials?

2) Did you grow up hearing that the Greek words for love (philia and agape) both get used in this passage showing a disconnect between Peter and Jesus?

3) Did you (wrongly) get told that Peter finally catches on and tells Jesus that Yes, he agape-loves him?

Well, it's time we clear up that confusion, learn that actually Jesus comes down to Peter's lower love, and see that this makes total sense of the next line about how Peter is not yet ready to love Jesus unconditionally, to the end. And that Jesus, in his mercy not only doesn't punish for sins but also doesn't punish for our slowness to grow in virtue, provided we listen when he says, "Follow me."

Sunday, April 28, 2019

The High Priest of Revelation

St. Paul tells us that Jesus is the one mediator between God and man. St. John in his first letter says Jesus is our advocate who ever pleads our cause to the Father. The Letter to the Hebrews constantly affirms that Jesus is our great high priest. We should not be surprised then that the Book of Revelation starts with Jesus dressed as a high priest of Israel, surrounded by liturgical imagery, and then shows that as human Messiah and divine Victor, he is the ideal mediator between fallen humanity and the heavenly Father. Revelation then, isn't a play-by-play of tribulations and the end of the space-time continuum as much as it is a vision of the perpetual worship in heaven, the constant struggle on earth, and of Jesus as leader of the faithful in both.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

3 Days, 1 Mystery, 6 Verbs

1) In Lent we usually force ourselves to not think about Easter. And then we get to Easter and forget Lent. We can struggle to hold the Paschal Mystery as one, and let Good Friday and Easter permeate each other.
2) And then, what happened in those mysterious High Holy Days? The apostles ransacked the prophets and psalms to try —not to explain so much as to describe— what happened within that Mystery. They use at least six different words to tell us what the Messiah did for man, and we might be selling them short by conflating those images and their scriptural contexts into "now I can go to heaven went I die."

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Holy Thursday: France & The Eucharist

Recently on social media I've seen an anonymous Roman prelate quoted commenting on some exercise in theological banter (a conference, the Council, a continuing education workshop?) who barked something like "Less chatter, more processions!" (I've also heard "banter" and "chit chat" so there must be some great Italian word behind this.) We moderns like to think that we are thinking people. But if so, we might want to rethink that, and see if we don't get more out of a life of story and song, icons and mysteries, wayside shrines and cool, dark churches. And to support that argument, for Holy Thursday I reflected on two modern Frenchmen who lived their Catholic Faith in the very teeth of secular opposition: Fran├žois Mauriac (interwar poet) and Fr. Jean-Marc Fournier (rescuer of Notre Dame cathedral). These two get it. And they don't mind living it aloud even if others don't. And they showcase the very best of 1,500 years of French Christianity—lived real and tangible and devout. [I'll see if I can get some text up later, or at least some of the best quotes from them and others.]

Sunday, April 14, 2019

The Palm Sunday Preface

There are two qualities needed in order to be a good Palm Sunday homily: 1) say something worthwhile about the events of Holy Week/the Paschal Mystery, and 2) be short. You'll have to judge whether this homily achieved the first requirement, but at least it pulled off the second one.

For, though innocent, he suffered willingly for sinners
and accepted unjust condemnation to save the guilty.
His Death has washed away our sins,
and his Resurrection has purchased our justification.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Safe Haven Sunday: No Shame, No Fear

Sexual sin, and the shame that comes with it, is not new. The two-pronged response of Jesus in the gospel and for us trying to protect our family and community is: break through the shame and fear and then set the person on the road to freedom and recovery.  Don't hesitate to contact your priests to get referrals to therapy and recovery groups for yourself, your family, your spouse. (This is both the audio of me reading the Bishop's letter for Safe Haven Sunday and then going directly into the homily; if you heard the letter elsewhere you can start 01:45)

5th Sunday of Lent, Year C

(Sorry, this is just my notes; not the complete text of the homily)

Bishop's Letter

Safe haven Sunday, 25 dioceses

Ideal weekend to put it on, 

since obviously the gospel has to do with sins of the flesh...

And shame

And fear

And competing modes of how to respond to the struggle 

Ideal place for reflection: what do we do? 

2 answers even in Jesus’s own final statement:

Neither do I condemn

Go and sin no more

He lifts the shame

Sets on a path to solid freedom and recovery

We do hear in a thing like Safe Haven Sunday, A call to protect,
Be vigilant,
Lay down defenses,
Not pull punches in calling out what is dangerous,
Not be wishy washy
Not be naive

Little booklet is great on that.  

But we also recognize that shame is not our friend in this work, 
And shame will quickly undermine what we Christians actually want
For our brothers and sisters,
Sons and daughters

Ch. 6, the fourth wall

Safety and trust within the home...

Openness and healing, 
not shame and hiding

8yo sees a pop up or a weird scene on tv

Safety to say it

11yo curious and tempted

Vulnerable—through trust and love—to admit

14yo to admit and say I need help. I’m caught in this

We might be tempted to assume it’s just a certain age range or a single gender. 

It’s not. 

So we, as families and as a community, need to be putting out the constant message:

Do not be afraid 

Do not be ashamed

Quoting Jesus: “Then neither to I condemn you”

This isn’t your fault; 
this didn’t start with you; 
you were targeted from an early age by marketers and media makers 

You are not alone. 

We will get you help. 

We won’t abandon you in this.

We love you; 
we don’t despise you.  

We will do anything it takes to help you get free

But know that—because of our great love for you—we will fight hard against the thing that is tormenting you.

Who do we go to? 

Talk to me. 

Talk to Fr. Kilcawley. 

He’s got tons of counselors to refer you to. 

Most likely, we would visit with you and send you to some trained to really start recovery. 

Even if you want to tell priests nothing and just get a referral: awesome. 

And like I said, this doesn’t apply to just one gender,
and it isn’t a message that stops at 14 or 18 or 22. 

We are now to the point where multiple generations have been surrounded and attacked, 

and probably with more casualties than escapees. 

And so to the adult here:

If this is a problem for you, or

For a spouse

For a friend

For an adult son or daughter

For a boyfriend or girlfriend

Again, the message of today’s gospel is the same:

We love you

We will help you

We cannot be a community of shame

We have to be a community of healing 

....of recovery 

Of vulnerability and transparency

“Vulnerability kills shame”

Help is available. 

Mentioned therapy

Kilcawley: Therapy, recovery group, eventually spiritual direction 

Recovery groups

About 40 years ago, 2 guys who were struggling, took the AA model, the Alcoholics Anonymous model, and applied it to these kind of behaviors 

There is one of those meetings for men right here in Wahoo every week. 

Not the kind of thing that is advertised openly

But if you come to one of us priests, 
either in the confessional or in person, 
we can tell you when 
and where it meets. 


Not one in Wahoo that I know 

All-women Lincoln, 

I think Omaha too

Could have one here. All you need is 2-3 people who will be honest and vulnerable and can meet regularly. 

SAnon: for, not the addict, but those affected by it—spouse, kids, etc.

Books and Cards

Concluding thought

Beside the gospel today, it’s great this happens in Lent

We know that Jesus came to take on—not only our sin—but our shame as well

He came that his wounds might heal our wounds

So we can, in our turn, break down those barriers of shame

To say—even though it’s awkward—we can talk about this...

We need to talk about this. 

Open up that path of communication 

So that what is broken may be healed

And what is hidden in darkness may come to light 

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Rejoice and Feast; Your Shame Is Gone

Lots of themes within the Prodigal Son. But the First Reading and the Psalm today suggest to us that the common theme of the day is God rejoicing over us, taking away our shame, and seating us at the great feast. And every Catholic should totally be able to connect those themes with the other traditional Prodigal Son themes of contrition, forgiveness, and mercy.

Rejoice and Feast; Your Shame Is Gone

4th Sunday of Lent, Year C

Today is Laetare Sunday. Today is a day of great rejoicing Laetare is one of those two Latin words we use for rejoicing: we have Gaudete Sunday in Advent and Laetare Sunday in the middle of Lent showing us we're over halfway through those two penitential season. So we wear bright colors, pretty colors, Rose colors and to say that we are we are in a celebrating mood. Our readings hit on that today so why don't you open up your missalette to page 81. Let's start with the gospel. 

The gospel of course we immediately recognize as the gospel of the prodigal son. And one thing you could pull out of the readings today is you could get this sense of reconciliation, because Paul talks about reconciliation in the second reading (I think he says we're about seven times). And there is only reconciling going on in an all three. I think the direct connection though between the first reading and the gospel —with bringing the responsorial psalm in tow— is the idea that: "What are we doing in those? We are rejoicing and eating —specifically feasting— rejoicing and feasting because the shame is over. Because our shame is taken away. So if you go to the second column there on page 81, and you go to that response of the father, fourth line down: "Quickly bring the finest robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Take the fattened calf and slaughter it." 

OK. So we are rejoicing. He has embraced his son. He's dressed him in the finest clothes. He's saying, "No son of mine will be shabby in my house." He takes away the shame. He says, "You're not going to walk in here in rags. They're not going to see "the dirty". <sniff, sniff> They're not going to smell the pigs on you. Right? He said, you know, your shame is going to be taken away. We're removing that. You're going to look like my son. You're going to be known as my son. Everyone's going to realize that my son is back. So he takes away that shame. And then they take the fattened calf and they go to slaughter it. 

And then we know [what happens]. What does the older brother hear as he comes in? Jump down halfway down; maybe a third of the way down. That beginning of the new paragraph there: "Now the older son was out in the field and on his way back as he neared the house he heard the sound of music and dancing." So again, we're not just eating and stuffing our faces. We are clearly having a loud, raucous party right. There's music and dancing. There's enough you can hear it all the way out in the field, enough that he is taken aback. And we know that he'll say later, "I don't see this kind of partying in my dad's house." Right? 

Jump down two thirds of the way there: What does he say to his father? "Look, all these years I served you. And not once did I disobey your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat to feast on with my friends." In other words, "This has not been a house of parties. This has not been a place of loud celebration. But you do it when this guy comes back? When this guy—who is shameful; who has done shameful things; who has shamed you and shamed our family by his choices; who's brought shame upon all of us by what he has done; who's been in the land of the Gentiles." That's why he smells like pigs, right? There's no pigs in Jewish Land. There's pigs in Gentile Land. You wouldn't have pigs in Jewish Land , right? [The brother] says, "He's done all of that and he then comes back and you do all this for him? "When your son returns who swallowed up your property with prostitutes, for him you slaughter the fattened calf." But we're told the answer, right? We're told: "Why are we rejoicing? Why are we feasting?" Because —fourth line from the bottom— "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. 

So the father takes away the shame. The father takes away all of that, and rejoices, and gives a meal. The three pieces, right there. Take away the shame, feast, and celebrate. All those [characteristics] are happening there in that story. 

Now before we immediately jump into the context of our lives, let's look back at the first reading. So jump back to page 79. 

We can read it initially as just: "Oh they're in the Promised Land finally. They're in the land of Canaan finally. They're getting to eat, and we could also read it as, "Oh it's a Passover!" They had the Passover when they left Egypt, and now they're celebrating it in peace, in prosperity, in the land of Canaan. They're showing that this is not a thing we're going to put away having just gotten out of land in Egypt. This is a ritual, this is a meal, this is a celebration, we're going to bring with us. 

But notice the context that God puts on that now-celebratory form of Passover. (The first Passover was with fear and trembling as the angel of death was going over the city, and they're hiding in their houses and knowing that something great is going on, and the blood of the lamb is on the door protecting them.) Now it is a celebratory thing, but God starts off by saying this: "The Lord said to Joshua, 'Today I have removed the reproach of Egypt from you." And then they go on to eat, right? So again they're feasting and celebrating because the shame is taken away. 

Now, their shame in the Exodus or their shame in Egypt is not as great as their shame, you know, five hundred years later in the Exile, when they have the Promised Land stripped from them. When God lets Babylon crush Jerusalem, scattered the people, and take them off to exile in Babylon. That was very directly for their sins. We're told that was because they refused to listen. They refused to let go of their false gods. They continued to rebel again and again and again. So God basically spanked them and then put them in timeout. That was very directly for their sins. 

Going down to Egypt was not so much that. It wasn't like they're directly sinned. I mean there's some of that: Jacob had twelve sons; ten of the twelve sons sell one of the other two down to Egypt. But that's not why they're in Egypt. We're told they're in Egypt really for God's purposes, and they lived there [peacefully] for 400 years. But if you've been in slavery, if you've been, you know, under someone else, and you're supposed to be this great nation, you couldn't help but have "reproach" as it says, by having that shame. You've been answering to someone else. You don't have an identity. You don't have a people. And actually they're lucky that they survived as a people. Which goes back to what we heard in the prodigal son idea: "Why are we rejoicing and celebrating?" He said, "Because what was once lost has been found; what was dead is now come back to life." 

The people of Israel would have felt like: "We were dead in Egypt. We had gone down there. We had lost ourselves. We lost our freedom. We lost our sense of identity, you know? We were basically nothing other than these slaves. We barely had a sense of ourselves, and now we've come back to life. Right. Israel's children are alive again and they're being brought in. And so how do they celebrate? With a meal, with the Passover meal. 

So this celebration comes in the form of: "Now we eat the Passover. Now we enjoy the work of somebody else's hands." Right? That's a fascinating line. Go on the right hand side, third line down: "On that same day after the Passover on which they ate of the produce of the land, the manna ceased. No longer was there manna for the Israelites, who that year ate the yield of the land of Canaan." 

 All other years they'd have to do their own planting and taking care of the fields and all that. This year they didn't. Someone else had planted those fields and they got to enjoy the benefit. They got to reap with somebody else so. So God is basically lavishing them with different things in that year to say, "This is my rejoicing. This is my celebrating. This is my feasting with you as I take away your reproach.". 

And even on the responsorial psalm —go one page forward; go to page 80— we've got "Taste and see the goodness of the Lord." Food, right? We've got a sense of eating. But also this idea of celebration. Very first line: "I will bless the Lord at all times. His praise shall be ever in my mouth. My soul shall glory in the Lord. The lowly will hear me and be glad." So there we go again: rejoicing and celebrating and eating. And then jump down to the last response the third one: "Look to him that you may be radiant with joy and your faces not may not blush with shame." There's that shame again, right? God takes away the shame, takes away the reproach, and then brings us that joy and that feasting. 

And if you wonder if that's actually in reference to God saving action, it seems to be. Go to the second paragraph there go to the second line of that. He says, "I sought the Lord and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears." So God is a deliverer. God as a savior. God takes care of his people. He released them; he brings them back up. 

So all of those [themes] are sitting together in our minds here. You know, we get a lot of different ideas out of the Prodigal Son. We get a lot of different ideas that come to us. But this is one that we can really connect with because we as Catholics know the experience of having been away from God and directly reconciling with him through the Sacrament of Reconciliation —going back and reconnecting to our father— and then being admitted to the table again. Being able to eat again, being able to come to the Eucharistic banquet, that feast, in order to do that. 

We know that feeling of celebration, right? We've all been there, right? You know you have been a confession in a long time; you go to confession; you walk out... <big exhale> because a weight is off your shoulder. You're excited like, "I wasn't able to go to Communion last week because I hadn't gone to Mass the week before that, and so I needed to get myself right with God." You know, we're excited to be able to come back to that table. 

And especially if it's been a long long time, there's that sense of: being the son, in the faraway country, living outside of the father's family, living in distance, maybe even feeling truly lost and dead, feeling like we're in exile, feeling like we're slaves to sin—all those things of a greater distance. 

And then here he comes. He doesn't ask questions. He doesn't say, "Where have you been? What'd you do with my money?" He says, "I receive you. I give you my mercy. I bring you back." And so we've had that personal experience. 

So it's good to see that it's not just, "God forgives us; God has mercy on us," but that it's connected directly to the idea of taking away that shame, that natural shame, that comes to us when we know we've done wrong. The idea of the father celebrating over us that allows us to celebrate, us to rejoice being brought back into the household. And then finally the idea that, "How do we do that? We're brought back to the table, back to the feast, able to eat again with our brothers and sisters, able to enjoy that celebratory feast and know that this is God's great blessing." So it's cool for us to see the full context of the parable back then, but also to apply it fully to our lives now.