An anniversary, a Gospel reading, and a Rosary mystery are all converging today. Eighteen years and one day ago it was Ash Wednesday, the Gospel reading for today is the Prodigal Son, and the Fourth Mystery on this Saturday is the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple.
What do these three things have in common? Restoration.
Just over 18 years ago I made a tentative return to the Church during Advent. I went to Mass every weekend and on Christmas Eve and then…nothing. As usual. Until the parish priest called me to follow up on the letter I had written to him about my desire to return. We had scheduled a meeting in December but I had canceled it. I think it was the season finale of my favorite show the night he wanted to get together. I know, I can’t believe I did that either. So, we set up another meeting and this time there was no looking back. It was full speed ahead to be restored to the Sacraments, which took another 15 months, but that’s another story for another day.
The Gospel today concerns the parable of the Prodigal Son. This young man wastes his inheritance, squanders the good will of his family, and ends up with the pigs – not a place any self-respecting Jew would care to be. One day he realizes he is not meant to live this way and returns home to the welcoming embrace of his loving and relieved father. I’m sure the parallels of my story and the Prodigal Son are easy to spot.
But what of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple? I was listening to Bp. Barron’s meditations on the Rosary this morning and he reflected on the importance of the temple for ancient Israel as a dwelling place for the Lord, that this is where the human race was reconciled to him. Ezekiel 8-11 tells us that the glory of the Lord had departed the temple due to the rebellion and disobedience of the people and in Ezekiel 43 it returns. When Joseph and Mary bring Jesus to the temple the prophecy is wholly fulfilled.
In a sense, as a baptized Christian in whom the Trinity dwells, but who was away from the Church for many years, living in rebellion and disobedience, the glory of the Lord didn’t depart from me (it can’t because I am baptized) but his Spirit certainly went dormant. When I came back to the Church and was reconciled to God, the glory was renewed. I am not saying it made me sinless and perfect, far from it! I am saying that right relationship was re-established, that my emotions, intellect, and will were brought back into line, and like the Prodigal Son I was restored to my place in the family.
If you feel distant from Jesus, ask Mama Mary and St. Joseph to bring you to the temple. Close your eyes, imagine putting your hands in theirs, and walking with them into the Temple of Jesus’ Sacred Heart to begin again with joy.