"Breaking Open the Word" :
James Cavanagh is the director of Evangelization and Catechesis for Metro-Area Parishes of the Denver Archdiocese. His weekly column, "Breaking Open the Word," is syndicated by the Denver Catholic Register, official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Denver. Click here to visit the Office of Evangelization & Catechesis for the Archdiocese of Denver.
Born anew, to a living hope, through baptism
Overview: This week’s readings focus on reconciliation. The first reading is about the Israelites celebrating the Passover just before they entered the Promised Land, 40 years after the first Passover and their escape from Egypt. The Passover not only commemorated their liberation from slavery, it signified and renewed their covenant with God. The connection to the Gospel may not be immediately apparent. The key lies in the words: “I have removed the reproach of Egypt from you.” The Hebrew word for “reproach”— Cherpah—can also be translated as “disgrace” or “shame.” Just as God had delivered the Hebrews from the shame of slavery so God in Christ has removed the stain of sin by “reconciling the world to himself.” The Christian Passover is the death and resurrection of Jesus. As St. Paul said, “Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed for us” (1 Cor 5:7). Hence, the celebration of the Passover in this week’s first reading prefigures Christ’s sacrifice by which we are reconciled to the Father. It also prefigures the father in this week’s Gospel who generously removes the reproach of his prodigal son. The second reading helps make the connection clearer. The “new creation” of which Paul speaks alludes to the new life in Christ by which the baptized “die” with him as they go down into the water and then rise with him when they come up again. Christ’s resurrection on Sunday, the first day of the week, inaugurated the new creation. Thus, those who are baptized become new creatures, just like the rebellious son in the Gospel who “was dead, but came to life again.” The story of the prodigal son is one of the best known and most beloved stories in the Bible. It beautifully captures the essence of the Gospel and who God is.
Key verse: “Whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Cor 5:17).
Catechism of the Catholic Church: “‘You were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.’ One must appreciate the magnitude of the gift God as given us in the sacraments of Christian initiation in order to grasp the degree to which sin is excluded for him who has ‘put on Christ.’ Jesus calls to conversion. This call is an essential part of the proclamation of the kingdom. Baptism is the principal place for the first and fundamental conversion. It is by faith in the Gospel and by baptism that one renounces evil and gains salvation, that is, the forgiveness of all sins and the gift of new life” (1425, 1427).
James Cavanagh is director of Evangelization and Catechesis for Metro-area Parishes of the Denver Archdiocese. Cavanagh’s column is distributed by the Denver Catholic Register.
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