Excellent! Thank you for posting. Wise words from Fr. Longenecker.
There's something to be said about those churches that follow a fixed calendar. As a Roman Catholic, practicing my faith in a Maronite Catholic Church, it came, first as a surprise, to hear the same Gospel readings each year and, then as a blessing, to anticipate each season, knowing in advance which Gospels would be read. One might expect it to be boring ... instead, it brings comfort.
The Season of Lent kicks off with the Miracle at Cana. That makes sense because it is the first miracle performed by our Lord and it begins his earthly ministry. On the 2nd Sunday of Lent, we hear about the Cleansing of the Leper; followed on week 3 by the The Hemorrhaging Woman. Week 4 we hear the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Week 5, is Sunday of the Paralytic, followed by Bartimaeus the Blind on the 6th week. This is followed by the The Rising of Lazarus on Saturday.
You can easily follow the emerging theme ... each miracle story is more spectacular than the previous one. Like an orchestra, these readings build up towards the crescendo, Hosanna (Palm) Sunday, and our Lord's triumphant entry into Jerusalem. By the time Jesus enters Jerusalem, can there be any doubt that He is the Son of God, the promised Messiah?!! Who else can restore sight to blind, cure a 12 year hemorrhage and raise the dead from their grave?
As I noted above, each time the Parable of the Prodigal Son is read, I hear these words: 'My son, you are here with me always; everything I have is yours.' Those words drive deep into the heart of the listener. They are humbling, yet bring much comfort and a desire to continue along the path of eternal salvation while pursuing a deeper relationship with our Lord.
In all of the above gospels, the recurrent theme is repentance and forgiveness of sin. God is merciful. He waits, oh so patiently, for sinners to turn their backs on sin and take the rocky path home.
Since Fr. Longenecker addressed the Divine Mercy, I cannot help but recall the visions of St. Faustina. She writes:
"...I saw two roads. One was broad, covered with sand and flowers, full of joy, music and all sorts of pleasures. People walked along it, dancing and enjoying themselves. They reached the end without realizing it. And at the end of the road there was a horrible precipice; that is, the abyss of hell. The souls fell blindly into it; as they walked, so they fell. And their number was so great that it was impossible to count them. And I saw the other road, or rather, a path, for it was narrow and strewn with thorns and rocks; and the people who walked along it had tears in their eyes, and all kinds of suffering befell them. Some fell down upon the rocks, but stood up immediately and went on. At the end of the road there was a magnificent garden filled with all sorts of happiness and all these souls entered there. At the very first instant they forgot all their sufferings" (Diary 153).
Our contemporary society lacks the patience to read through a 12,000 word interview to grasp the full meaning of Pope Francis. Instead, 'sound bites' are what prevail. Unless one is knowledgeable in Catholic teaching, it is wrong to interpret the pope's words, without a full analysis of what he is saying within the context of church teaching.