Third Sunday of Lent – 8.30am Mass, Cathedral of the Assumption, Carlow
Bishop Denis celebrated Mass in the Cathedral on Sunday 4th March, during his introduction he commented “Yesterday in reading the story of the Prodigal Son from Luke’s gospel, I suggested to the congregation, to listen out for something new, something never heard before, something that slipped our notice. It was very interesting what unfolded.
This morning we’re getting a glimpse of an emotional Jesus and a God who shows his feelings also. The Book of Exodus introduces us to a jealous God who expects His followers to live up to the mark. The money changers and stall hagglers got their comeupence in the temple – tables are tossed, money is scattered, pigeons are frightened, and we know what happens when they are startled!
We will be surprised by the anger Jesus shows; we might even be disturbed to think that our God is a jealous God – but all of this is because Jesus only wants the best for us. He realises we live in that tension between the material and the spiritual, that tension between the market place and the Father’s house. There can at times be this tension in our families, in our own lives…”
Among the hardest personalities to relate to is the non-plussed placid type, the type who never seem to get upended on any issue.
Nothing rocks their boat or disturbs their peace.
The kind of person who is totally impassive about snow drifts and snow fall of epic proportions as we experienced in recent days.
Jesus is certainly not of the non-plussed placid generation!
In scripture, we don’t get a great amount of New Testament anger, evidenced in today’s gospel!
Mind you the Old Testament recounts the clogging of Egyptian chariots, a stubborn Job not for budging in the midday sun and a reluctant Jonah spewed up from the belly of a whale.
It’s great stuff when scripture is synopsized so succinctly with no little amount of poetic license!
Yesterday’s gospel had that wonderful account from Luke of ‘The Prodigal Son’, remember the venom of the elder son as he stumbled on his fathers welcome home bash for the younger brother: “he and his women”.
As I said yesterday I feel a larger congregation is robbed when the Prodigal Story is delivered on a Saturday morning and not on a Saturday evening / Sunday morning!
Tough stuff and very real anger … because it’s our story, the element of the prodigal is a very real part of too many of our lives.
Of course none of us like the older son … because he’s too like ourselves!
And we all have that sneaking regard for the younger lad, there are times we all wanted to do a legger!
But in running away, he was running not from the family, but from himself: content that he might eat the husks the pigs were eating, but no one offered him any …
… no one, no one, no one offered him as much as a husk?
There was an innate goodness in the Prodigal as there is in all of us.
Communities like the Prodigals family are crippled by grudges, so and so never forgiven, never accepted, never invited.
It was always about something, until people forget what it was ever about.
Families are torn apart by anger.
Jesus walked into a temple that had become a Sunday Market bazaar.
If on holiday you ever found yourself unsuspectingly brought by the tour guide into a souk to smell soaps or view carpets, you can understand the anger, the annoyance, the angst in Jesus.
He was angry to put it mildly, and he expressed that anger in the clearest possible terms: “stop turning my Father’s house into a market”.
There was no mistaken the anger and the response to that anger.
By then the pigeons have left their droppings!
Confession allows us to clean up these droppings!
Next Friday evening our Diocese like others will host ‘24 Hours for the Lord’, this year uniquely we will host it in six churches: Rathvilly, Bagenalstown, Portlaoise, Newbridge, Allenwood & Rhode.
The theme this year is taken from Psalm 130: “with you is forgiveness”.
Pope Francis reminds us “when the door starts closing a bit because of our weakness and sins, confession reopens it”.
When the Lord forgives, he forgets – that’s the important bit!
Confession is an encounter with Jesus, whose “mercy motivates us to do better”.
If the younger son could do it; if the money changers could do it and if the pigeon sellers could do it, so can we!