At daily Mass on Saturday, the day before the third Sunday of Lent, we will read the Parable of the Prodigal Son. After that: only three weeks till Palm Sunday!
Let’s focus on this: Christ came to conquer death. To die as a man and rise again as a man. CNN can come and go; brackets can get filled out and busted. But this is the essential fact. Jesus said, “In My Father’s house, there are many dwelling places.” We live a mortal life in a sinful world, to be sure. But, fundamentally, we live in the Father’s house. And each of us has his or her own place in that house, no matter what—because of Christ’s conquest of death.
We read in the gospel at today’s Mass that Lazarus would gladly have eaten the scraps that fell from Dives’ table. Lazarus did not demand a widescreen hd smart tv. Lazarus did not style himself as some kind of high-rolling tycoon. He simply wanted his just portion of food.
But he did not get it. Because Dives did style himself a high-rolling tycoon and did demand a widescreen hd smart tv and did not concern himself with his fellowman.
Then death came for them both. And with death came justice.
Tomorrow at Holy Mass we will read a parable about how the Father built a fruitful vineyard with plenty of dwelling places, for his grapes to grow and for His children to reap the fruits. He sent His Son to collect His just portion. ( I guess the just portion of the Creator can only be our peaceful, worshipful love, right?) But they killed the Son and heir.
See the picture here? The Father wills peace, harmony, human co-operation. The Father wills the fruitfulness of His children. The Father reigns over a kingdom not of scarcity, nor of selfish luxury—but of tranquil, beautiful sufficiency for everyone. The Son fulfills the will of the Father perfectly. And, in this fallen world, it leads to His death.
When rich Dives cried out from hell, begging Abraham to send someone back from the dead to teach the world a lesson, Abraham demurred. ‘God already tried to teach the world a lesson! Didn’t He form a covenant and seal it with His life-giving love? How hard is it to obey the Ten Commandments? No more warnings.’
But, as we will read Saturday: Even without the warning that Dives begged Abraham to send, something managed to get through to the prodigal son. Something penetrated his soul, as he gazed upon the pig-slop that he wished he could feed himself upon. He languished in the muck, in this fallen world. But, somehow, he found a way to stand on the stone which the builders rejected. The stone which the builders rejected is Christ, the Prince of Peace, Who came seated on a donkey into Jerusalem, prepared to reign with love. But they rejected Him and killed Him.
The prodigal son managed to stand on that stone somehow, and he thought to himself, “In my father’s house, there are many dwelling places! There’s one for me.” And the father said, “This son of mine was dead, but now he lives!”
Christ conquered death. He conquered death with something. It’s the same mysterious something that somehow moved the heart of the prodigal son towards the truth of God.
Christ conquered death with the very life that the Father freely wills to give us. Christ conquered death with the Father’s gift of life. Abraham would not send a warning back from beyond the grave. But Christ did not hesitate to return from the grave with a gift. The gift of the fruitful life of the eternal springtime of God.