Twenty Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)

Ex 32:7-11,13-14; 1Tim 1:12-17; Luke 15:1-32

OTHER HOMILY SOURCES from Christ Desert

2019 Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

Sep 13, 2019 | Homily

Scripture Readings: Book of Exodus 32:7-11, 13-14; First Letter to Timothy 1:12-17;                                                      Gospel According to Luke 15:1-32

The story is told of a catechism class studying the Parable the Prodigal Son. After emphasizing the wrong attitude of the older son in the parable, the teacher described the great rejoicing of the household with the return of the prodigal son. “Amidst the celebration, though,” the teacher said, “there was one who failed to share in the festive spirit. Now who was that?” asked the teacher. One of the pupils immediately shouted out: “The fatted calf.”

The parable of the Prodigal Son is one of the best remembered of Jesus’ parables. The story has been so popular through the ages that along with the parable of the Good Samaritan, many people, even those minimally involved in religion or little acquainted with the Bible, can recount the basic story line.

Artists have taken up the subject too, such as Dutch master Rembrandt in his famous painting. Looking at the image one immediately notices the prominent standing figure, the Father of the Parable, who represents God. Interestingly enough, though, he seems to be depicted as being blind. His eyes are shut, at least to the faults of his son, and he sees the wayward son not with his eyes but with his heart, on which the kneeling son rests his head.

If you look at the two hands of the Father, his left hand seems decidedly masculine and pulls the son’s right shoulder toward the Father’s embrace. The other hand, more delicate and feminine, seems to be caressing the repentant son’s back. In this artistic narration of the parable, God is depicted with traits usually associated both with a loving father and mother, fitting enough as God is a loving creator and parent.

In the parable of the Prodigal Son we find three strong persons, and our Lord probably intends for us who hear the parable to see ourselves in each of the three characters. How is this so? The weakness and straying of the younger son we probably can easily relate to. The jealousy of the older son who doesn’t get rewards for never straying we can identify with as well I’m sure.

And finally the compassionate outreach of the Father we can likely find in ourselves too. That is part of the beauty of the parable; each character is not to represent just one type of person, but all of us are a mixture of sin and repentance, jealousy and resentment, and finally, it is hoped, overflowing compassion, forgiveness and love towards others.

The point of the parable has to be: try harder to become like the forgiving Father, be less like the jealous older son, and learn the meaning of love of self as the prodigal son finally learned in the compassionate arms of his Father.

Like the prodigal son we’re often away from God by our weakness. We get itchy feet and long to be anywhere but here, and off we go either really or in our minds. Like the older son we’re often absent from God’s love because of bitterness or anger over what others are getting and we think we aren’t. As we get older maybe we more easily realize we are a mixture of both sons in the parable. At least I do.

What Jesus is inviting us to in this parable is the realization that our God is like a loving parent, stretching out hands to us, always forgiving, totally compassionate, loving without limits. That should spell loud and clear to us: be ye comforted!

The parable is sometimes called that of the Prodigal Father, since prodigal means recklessly wasteful, which the son certainly is in a negative sense, and the Father is a wholly positive sense, of throwing love without restraint, at all times and never counting the cost.

The younger son’s misery, being consigned before repentance to a pigsty (and nothing could be uglier in the minds of Jesus’ hearers), finally brings him to his senses. This is the greener grass on the other side of the fence? Hardly!

How often we think that way, only to realize there is nothing better than to be in the Father’s house. For us, home is meant to mean God’s kingdom and the Church.

Have you ever noticed that the parable of the Prodigal Son has no ending really? We don’t know, for example, if the elder brother ever goes in and enjoys the feast with the rest of the household. We’d like to think so at least.

What we have is not just a story, then, but a challenge, and that’s the nature of the parables. In other words, if I’m the prodigal son, will I eventually go back to my Father’s house? If I’m the elder son, will I stay outside or go on in and rejoice over the repentant sinner, forgiving as I am forgiven? Can I show a similar loving forgiveness so lavishly bestowed by the father in the parable?

Even when we make a mess of things, our loving God is ready to take us in. Forgiveness is the final form of love, because it defies logic and can only be described as God-like. We are all called to show it.

Forgiveness should be extended “seventy times seven times,” as Jesus expresses it elsewhere in the Gospel (Matthew, chapter 18). All of this should inspire us to ponder on God’s forgiveness of our sins, our need to repent and to have confidence in God’s mercy. And we must forgive others. We should always pray for the grace to do so. The fact that we want to forgive means we’re actually nearly or already there, and the grace to actually forgive will follow, though not necessarily right away.

As St Augustine expressed it, “Do what you can do and pray for what you cannot do.”

christdesert.org/2019/09/twenty-fourth-sunday-in-ordinary-time-year-c/

***************

See Today’s Readings: Cycle C

See Other Homily Option

Back to Other Homily Sources

Back to: Twenty Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)

Advertisements
Posted in . | Leave a comment

Twenty Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)

Ex 32:7-11,13-14; 1Tim 1:12-17; Luke 15:1-32

OTHER HOMILY SOURCES from Association of Catholic Priests

2019 15 September, 2019. 23rd Sunday (C)

To avenge or to forgive?

We all find it hard to forgive any wrongs inflicted on us by others. Perhaps the resented incident was deliberate, or it might have been unintentional. But it’s sad if people have to go through life harbouring grudges, making themselves miserable because they cannot let bygones be bygones. They need to consign to the past those hurts of the past, rather than still smoulder with unresolved resentment.

Because we ourselves often feel resentments, we might imagine God as waiting to settle accounts with us some day. Because we can be vindictive, we project vengeance onto God. Such a distorted notion appears in our first reading today, where Moses seems to be more merciful than God. When the people worshipped the Golden Calf, God turns aside from his anger only because Moses intercedes on their behalf. How different is the picture of God that Jesus presents in his parable. Our heavenly Father is not an angry God who wants to judge us harshly, but a merciful God who wants to be close to us, and forgives all our foolishness. God is like the loving, welcoming parent who has lost a child, and cannot rest until the child is safely home.

The spirit of hatred, anger and revenge is alive and well in our world today. Proxy civil wars are stirred up and prolonged by outside powers, with masses of guns and weapons of mass destruction piled up and waiting to be used. Some have stockpiled chemical weapons while others have nuclear bombs enough to destroy the whole planet. How conflicted are the views of politicians who talk of spreading democracy, but can rain down destruction from the safety of drones, high in the atmosphere.

Forgiveness is fine when we ask for it for ourselves. But what about letting others be forgiven? The father in the parable throws such a huge party that the noise is heard out in the fields. Are we also willing to celebrate, if peace can be reached without revenge or punishment? Or are we like the sullen elder brother who resents celebrating the return of his lazy, irresponsible younger brother? Can we accept that God offers mercy to everyone, no matter what they have done? If we are to be truly Christian, we have to change our view of other people, and to see them as God does, with understanding and of mercy. The Prodigal Son story has no clear ending. We don’t know if the elder brother eventually went in to join in the celebrations, or stayed outside, seething with self-righteousness. There is no ending, because it is not just a story, it is a challenge to each of us. How would you end the story? Would you go in or stay outside?

Lost And Found

God loves the just but does not ignore the sinner, for whom there is always a place in his kingdom. The church is not an exclusive club. The Pharisees resent God’s mercy. The parable of the lost sheep does not deny the goodness of the virtuous majority but makes the point that there’s a special place for the repentant sinner. The lost coin is important to the careful housewife, and her joy at its recovery is shared because it is deeply felt. The sum may be modest but it’s sentimental value matters a lot to her. All are V.I.P.s in God’s eyes, and especially what was lost and found.

But there is another side to this story: the Prodigal Son “came to his senses.” He opened his eyes to see, his ears to hear; he reached out for help, and got in touch with reality. The father’s welcome was extraordinary, but it could only happen because the son came back home. Are we willing to let the Father embrace us, and are we prepared to come to our senses too? His mercy is there for any of us who turn to him with all our hearts.

The parable of the prodigal son is a classic of narrative skill that is timelessly relevant. We need to know that a loving Father awaits our return home. We also need the reminder that the same loving God expects us to forgive one another and to keep in touch with one another. The joy of a son’s homecoming was spoiled for the father by the sulking of the elder brother.

How sad that the elder brother resented his brother for having been such a waster in the past? God wants us all to be merciful. Leaving people helpless is no part of his plan. Though living under the same roof, the elder son was isolated from his father. Focussed on his own rights and needs, he could not stomach his brother’s safe return. Calling him “this son of yours” must have grieved his father. Faithful and dutiful disciples need to be open to welcome home the wild ones, even the apparent wasters, for that is how things are done “up above”, according to Jesus.

associationofcatholicpriests.ie/2019/09/15-september-2019-23rd-sunday-c-2/

***************

See Today’s Readings: Cycle C

See Other Homily Option

Back to Other Homily Sources

Back to: Twenty Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)

Posted in . | Leave a comment

Twenty Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)

Ex 32:7-11,13-14; 1Tim 1:12-17; Luke 15:1-32

OTHER HOMILY SOURCES from Marino  J. Dasmarinas

2016 Sunday, September 11, 2016

Reflection for Sunday September11, Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time; Luke 15:1-32

Gospel: Luke 15:1-32

Tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to Jesus, but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”  So to them he addressed this parable. “What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it? And when he does find it, he sets it on his shoulders with great joy and, upon his arrival home, he calls together his friends and neighbors and says to them, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you, in just the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.

“Or what woman having ten coins and losing one would not light a lamp and sweep the house, searching carefully until she finds it? And when she does find it, she calls together her friends and neighbors and says to them, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found the coin that I lost.’ In just the same way, I tell you, there will be rejoicing among the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Then he said, “A man had two sons, and the younger son said to his father, ‘Father give me the share of your estate that should come to me.’ So the father divided the property between them. After a few days, the younger son collected all his belongings and set off to a distant country where he squandered his inheritance on a life of dissipation.  When he had freely spent everything, a severe famine struck that country, and he found himself in dire need. So he hired himself out to one of the local citizens who sent him to his farm to tend the swine.  And he longed to eat his fill of the pods on which the swine fed, but nobody gave him any. Coming to his senses he thought, ‘How many of my father’s hired workers have more than enough food to eat, but here am I, dying from hunger. I shall get up and go to my father and I shall say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as you would treat one of your hired workers.”’ So he got up and went back to his father. While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him. His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I no longer deserve to be called your son.’ But his father ordered his servants, ‘Quickly bring the finest robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Take the fattened calf and slaughter it. Then let us celebrate with a feast, because this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again; he was lost, and has been found.’ Then the celebration began. Now the older son had been out in the field and, on his way back, as he neared the house, he heard the sound of music and dancing. He called one of the servants and asked what this might mean.

The servant said to him, ‘Your brother has returned and your father has slaughtered the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ He became angry, and when he refused to enter the house, his father came out and pleaded with him. He said to his father in reply, ‘Look, all these years I served you and not once did I disobey your orders; yet you never gave me even a young goat to feast on with my friends. But when your son returns, who swallowed up your property with prostitutes, for him you slaughter the fattened calf.’ He said to him, ‘My son, you are here with me always; everything I have is yours. But now we must celebrate and rejoice, because your brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.

+ + + + + + +

Reflection:

A newly-elected president from a faraway country had the shock of his life. When he discovered that almost fifthly percent of his country’s population was hooked on heroine and other illegal drugs.   So he called for an emergency meeting of all of his government department heads. And the president told them, “Let us create a comprehensive program the will take care and rehabilitate these drug addicts.”

After five years the government of this president was successful in eliminating the drug menace of his country. The former drug addicts that his government rehabilitated were back on their feet; some were productively working. Some were volunteers in their respective communities and many became very successful in their field of interest.

When the term of this president was about to end, these former drug addicts pooled whatever meager resources that they have to sponsor a nationwide paid advertisement to thank him for nurturing them and for not giving-up on them.  Because according to them they were once upon a time were lost but this humble and caring president did not give-up on them.

Through parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin and the prodigal son Jesus in the gospel for this Sunday speaks about the not giving-up with the lost ones. Jesus teaches us not to give up on them no matter how sinful they are.

How many times have we given-up on the lost ones? We think about them as discards and scourges of society that they are not useful anymore. We therefore give up on them, this is who many of us are: We give up on the lost and we treat them as good for nothing!

But that is not what Jesus is teaching us in this gospel, What Jesus is teaching us is not to give up on the lost ones. Jesus is telling us that instead of giving up on those who are lost we should instead patiently look for them. For they still can be found, they still can be rehabilitated and they still are very much capable of straightening their ways if we will not give up on them.

Do you easily give up on those who are lost? Those who are unproductive and wayward members of your family? Are you forgiving and patient enough to help them get back on their feet again? –  Marino  J. Dasmarinas

mjdasma.blogspot.com/2016/09/reflection-for-sunday-september11.html

***************

See Today’s Readings: Cycle C

See Other Homily Option

Back to Other Homily Sources

Back to: Twenty Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)

Posted in . | Leave a comment

Twenty Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)

Ex 32:7-11,13-14; 1Tim 1:12-17; Luke 15:1-32

OTHER HOMILY SOURCES from Bishop Abet Uy

2016 Saturday, September 10, 2016

24TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (YEAR C)

Lukas 15:1-32

Kinsa man ang Dios nga atong giila? Unsa may hulagway ning Ginoo nga atong gisimba?

Si Hesus. Siya ang hulagway sa Dios nga atong gisimba, gisunod ug gihigugma. Sa wala pa si Hesus moanhi sa kalibotan, ang tawo wala pa kaayo makaila sa Dios ug wala pa kaayo makatugkad sa kadako sa Iyang gugma. Sa pag-abot sa saktong panahon, sa dihang ang Dios nagpakatawo ug nagpuyo uban kanato, hinayhinay nasabtan sa tawo ang pagbati ug mga pamaagi sa Dios.

Si Hesus mao ang kinatibuk-an sa Dios, siya ang kumpleto nga hulagway sa Ginoo. Kon gusto kita nga makaila sa Dios ug makasabot sa Iyang mensahe, atong tan-awon si Hesus ug sabton ang Iyang gibuhat ug gitudlo. Si Hesus lahi og hulagway sa Dios nga nailhan sa mga Hudiyo. Ang Dios para sa mga Hudiyo, layo ug lisod nga duolon. Walay tawo nga motan-aw Kaniya nga dili mamatay. Dili nimo Siya puwede nga sangpiton sa Iyang ngalan. Samtang ang Dios nga atong naila kang Kristo usa ka Dios nga makig-uban, maduol ug masangpit ang ngalan, dugay nga masuko ug dili mahukmanon. Kon ang atong nailhan nga Dios sukwahi og hulagway, pamaagi, ug kabubut-on ni Hesus, nan lain nga Dios ang atong gisimba.

Sa ebanghelyo ning Domingoha, si Hesus naghatag og tulo ka sambingay nga mohulagway sa iyang pagbati ug panghunahuna alang sa tawong makasasala – ang Sambingay sa Nawalang Karnero, ang Sambingay sa Nawalang Salapi, ug ang Sambingay sa Nawalang Anak. Adunay pipila ka mahinungdanong pagtulon-an kining mga sambingay.

Una, sa atong pagpakasala, kita nahimulag sa kiliran sa Dios. Dili ang Dios maoy mipalayo kanato, kondili kita ang mipili sa pagpahilayo sa Dios. Gipalabi nato ang laing relasyon, o kaha mga butang nga kalibotanon. Aduna kitay laing gipaka-dios, nga atong gitoohan nga maghatag kanatog kalipay. Sa atong pagpakasala, sa atong pagkahimulag, ang Dios maoy unang nasakitan.

Ang atong pagpakasala, ang atong pagbiya sa Dios, usa ka gawasnon nga paghukom. Mahimo sa amahan ang pagdumili sa gipangayo sa mausikong anak, apan gihatagan niya kini og kagawasan. Wala niya ipamugos ang iyang gugma. Ingon usab niini ang Dios nga gipaila ni Hesus kanato. Masakitan Siya sa atong pagpakasala, apan gihatagan Niya kita og kagawasan sa pagpabilin o sa pagpalayo Kaniya.

Ikaduha, ang matag tawo bililhon kaayo sa Dios. Dili Siya buot nga adunay usa nga mawala; gusto Niya nga maluwas ang tanan. Biyaan niya ang 99 ka buok aron lamang sa pagpangita sa usa nga nahisalaag. Andam siya nga magtukaw, magsakripisyo sa pagpangita sa usa nga nawala. Ug sama sa buotan nga Amahan, ang Dios kada adlaw magpaabot sa pagbalik sa Iyang nawalang anak.

Ang Dios maoy molihok alang sa atong kaluwasan. Kini ang gipadayag sa ebanghelyo ni San Juan: “Kay wala ipadala sa Dios ang Iyang anak nganhi sa kalibotan aron pagsilot kondili aron pagluwas niini.” Ang pagluwas maoy gitinguha sa Dios, dili ang pagsilot. Ang paghatag og kinabuhi, dili ang pagpatay. Ang mga sambingay wala magtudlo nga ang Dios naghimaraot sa tawo nga nakasala ug naninguha sa pagpatay ug paglaglag niini sa dayon.

Ug ikatulo, ang Dios malipay pag-ayo kon makaplagan kita Niya ug madala pagbalik sa Iyang kiliran. Magpiyesta ang langit. Dapiton sa Dios ang Iyang mga higala ug magkombira Siya tungod kay ang Iyang anak namatay ug karon nabuhi, nawala ug karon nakaplagan.

Kining mga pagtulon-an nga atong nakuha gikan sa mga sambingay ni Kristo unta maghatag og giya kanato ning panahona, ilabina sa atong pagpangitag kasulbaran ning dakong problema sa druga.

Pamalandonga nato kini:

  1. Subay sa pagtulon-an sa mga sambingay, malipay kaha ang Dios sa gibuhat karon nga “extra-judicial killings” o pagpatay sa mga suspetsado nga drug addicts, pushers, ug suppliers?
  2. Kon si Hesus maoy atong pabut-on, unsa may Iyang gusto nga atong buhaton sa mga drug addicts nga atong silingan, higala, paryenti, o igsoon? Posted by Abet Uy

abetuy.blogspot.com/2016/09/24th-sunday-in-ordinary-time-year-c.html

***************

See Today’s Readings: Cycle C

See Other Homily Option

Back to Other Homily Sources

Back to: Twenty Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)

Posted in . | Leave a comment

Twenty Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)

Ex 32:7-11,13-14; 1Tim 1:12-17; Luke 15:1-32

OTHER HOMILY SOURCES from MSP

24th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME: JESUS, FULL OF MERCY

Lk 15: 1-32

PEOPLE WOULD love and value friendship. But when friends fall and commit sins, they are abandoned by them. This is not only a case for friends. There are siblings who disown their brother or sister when the latter fell and committed some grave mistakes in their life. In abandoning and disowning, these people dissociate themselves from the fallen friends and siblings.

 

Our gospel today presents a sharp contrast. Our Lord Jesus loves sinners and he associates himself, rather than dissociating from them. Let us try to reflect on the some important moments in the gospel.

 

First, the gospel passage says that the man Jesus “welcomes sinners and eats with them”. He was accused by the Pharisees of eating with sinners. He was accused of lowering the moral standards by associating himself with the known public sinners. The Pharisees were scandalized by his desire to be with a bad company. But let us take note that when Jesus associates himself with sinners, it does not mean that he tolerates the wrongdoings of sinners. Jesus does not love what they do or did. When he comes to them, he has a mission. That is, to bring back sinners back to God.

 

Second, to explain what he does, Jesus narrates three parables. In these stories, Jesus shows that his role is to seek the lost. And finding them, there is an experience of great joy. Seeking the lost indicates how important and special each person is in the eyes of God. In the corporate world, the majority is more important. The lost and least are not important. Sometimes, this can happen in a family. There are parents who demonstrate favoritism to children who are brilliant, good-looking, gifted etc. And those who are not, they are simply left out. And when these children started to rebel by becoming wayward, some parents are not bothered. They don’t have an effort to seek them because they are not important.

 

Third, the three parables show us the real face of God. That our God is loving, forgiving, and merciful. In eating and associating himself with public sinners, Jesus shows that he loves them. If they are left out by others, Jesus shows that he is different by loving them. And when sinners repent, Jesus forgives them. When Jesus sees the situation of sinners, he pitied them. He does this because God is rich in mercy.

 

Let us try to reflect further on the last point: love, forgiveness and mercy of God. All these are felt in relation to the suffering of a person. If a person suffers, our reaction should be one of love and mercy. In Dives in Misericordia, the Blessed John Paul II reflected on the situation of the “Prodigal Son”. He says that the son lost, not only his received inheritance, but more his dignity because of his folly and sin. When he returned to his father, he repented of his sins. Then the father showed mercy toward his son, and he has forgiven him.

 

This gospel tells us the truth that God seeks us, sinners. But, some of us remain in hiding and have not allowed themselves to be found. God is loving, forgiving and merciful, but some of us do not want to experience these qualities of God. The key to experiencing this is repentance and conversion. If we come back to God and repent our sins, then, like the prodigal son, we can experience the forgiveness and mercy of God.

msp.org.ph/homilies.do?id=15997

24th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME: LIKE GOD THE FATHER, JESUS IS RICH IN MERCY

Lk 15:1-32

MOST OF US value family and friendship. But, often, when friends fall and commit sins, they abandon them. The same is true to siblings. There are siblings who disown their brother or sister when the latter fell and committed some grave mistakes in their life. In abandoning and disowning them, these people dissociate themselves from the “fallen” friends and siblings.

Our gospel today presents a sharp contrast to this case. On the contrary, our Lord Jesus loves sinners. He associates himself with them, rather than dissociating himself from them. Let us try to reflect on some important moments in the gospel.

First, the gospel passage says that the man Jesus “welcomes sinners and eats with them”. He was accused by the Pharisees of eating with sinners. He was accused of lowering the moral standards by associating himself with the known public sinners. The Pharisees were scandalized by his desire to be with a bad company. But let us take note that when Jesus associates himself with sinners, it does not mean that he tolerates the wrong-doings of sinners. Jesus does not love what they do or did, for sure. But when he goes to them, he has a mission. That is, to bring back sinners back to God.

Secondly, to explain what he does, Jesus narrates three parables. In these stories, Jesus shows that his role is to seek the lost. And finding them, there is an experience of great joy. Seeking the lost indicates how important and special each person is in the eyes of God.

This is something worth reflecting, because in our world, the so-called majority rule is considered more important. The will of the majority is all that matters. The minority has no place in this world. Thus, the lost and least are not considered as important. They are simply left out and forgotten. Sometimes, this can happen in a family. There are parents who demonstrate favoritism to children who are brilliant, good-looking, gifted etc. And those who are not, they are simply left out. And when the latter start to rebel and become wayward, some parents are not bothered. They don’t have an effort to seek them because they are not important, after all.

Thirdly, the three parables show us the real face of God. It has been demonstrated in the parables that our God is loving, forgiving, and merciful. In eating and associating himself with public sinners, Jesus shows that he loves them. Jesus shows that he is different by loving them instead. And when sinners repent, Jesus forgives them. When Jesus sees the situation of sinners, he pities them. He does this because God is rich in mercy.

Let us try to reflect further on the last point: love, forgiveness and mercy of God. God feels love, forgiveness and mercy to a suffering person. If a person suffers, our reaction should also be one of love and mercy. In Dives in Misericordia, St John Paul II reflects on the situation of the “Prodigal Son”. He says that the son lost, not only his received inheritance, but more his dignity because of his folly and sin. When he returned to his father, he repented of his sins. Then the father showed mercy toward him, and he has forgiven him.

This gospel tells us the truth that God seeks us, sinners. Unfortunately, some of us remain in hiding and have not allowed ourselves to be found by Him. God is loving, forgiving and merciful, but some of us do not want to experience these qualities of God. The key to experiencing this is repentance and conversion. If we come back to God and repent of our sins, then, like the prodigal son, we can experience the love, forgiveness, and mercy of God.

2019 24th Sunday C

Lk 15: 1-32

Lost Sheep, Lost Coin and Lost Son

We all know how upsetting and frustrating it is to lose something or even someone in our lives. For example if our car keys or mobile phones are lost; or maybe our dogs or cats escape from the house and are lost; we start to overthink and to wonder until we feel restless and helpless. But, when we begin to search and to look until we find them; there we begin to have a sense of relief. Sometimes we even announce to others that we have found what we have lost. Likewise, the gospel this Sunday puts before us the experience of being lost and found by God. Jesus uses three parables to describe for us the lengths God goes to in order to find us when we ourselves are lost.

The parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin are basically the same story. In each, something is lost, searched out, and found. Jesus is making a simple point. He comes to search and finds the one. He comes to restore that is lost. The truth here is that the mercy of God stretches forth His hands to misery, which grace receives men as sinners that it deals with unworthiness and worthlessness. In each of these parables, Jesus includes two characters. The first is that which is lost. The second is the one who seeks. The lost must be found. But in each instance, the lost does not know he is lost. We have no indication the sheep understands his plight. He has no awareness of danger. He thinks he is fine. The coin has no ability to see, it cannot understand obviously, nor does it talk. Each is lost, and each matters so much that the seeker leaves much to find the one. The one who seeks wastes no time. The shepherd abandons the ninety-nine to look for the one. The woman sweeps the house over to uncover the coin. Time is not mentioned. Cost is not counted. All that matters is the one being returned to the many. And when it is, a party is thrown. It is not the sheep that stays or the coins in the bank that were the cause of the party. It is the sheep that wanders, the coin that lost.

The parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin prepare us for the parable of the prodigal son. Here, something again is lost. But we gain more insight. The “lostness” of the younger son is no accident. It is willful. He sins his way out of the house. But this story is more than the son who leaves and comes back. It is a story also about the son who stayed and never entered. It is a story in two parts, with two different ways of living, both taking us far from the Father’s heart.

These three parables show us one overarching truth that God loves sinners very much. And because He does, He sends his Son into the world to seek out and find the lost. Without God’s initiating love, we have no hope. We will either run from him in rebellion or stick close to him in self-righteousness, but we will never have salvation on our own. We may live within his walls but unless God comes to us in love and changes our heart we will never truly be home.

Lastly, Jesus is the Shepherd looking for his lost sheep. He is the Woman sweeping the house for the lost coin. He is the true elder Brother leaving the father’s house to come look for the prodigal. He reaches all the way to the lowest, dirtiest sin, and all the way to the highest, ugliest self-righteousness. This parable is telling us one thing that when Jesus gets involved, no one stands a chance. He can clean anyone, from the self-righteous scoffer to the pigsty-dwelling rebel. Amen.

Fr. Rodney Mondido, MSP Okinawa, Japan

msp.org.ph/homilies.do?id=26297

See Today’s Readings: Cycle C

See Other Homily Option

Back to Other Homily Sources

Back to: Twenty Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)

Posted in . | Leave a comment

Twenty Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)

Ex 32:7-11,13-14; 1Tim 1:12-17; Luke 15:1-32

OTHER HOMILY SOURCES from Fr. Antonio Izquierdo, LC

Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
Author: Fr. Antonio Izquierdo, LC
Source: sacerdos.org

Readings: Exodus 32: 7–11, 13–14; Psalm 51; 1 Timothy 1: 12–17; Luke 15: 1–32

THEME OF THE READINGS
The mercy of God the Father resounds throughout today’s liturgy. It reaches its climax in the Gospel, which brings together three wonderful parables of divine mercy for sinners. In the First Reading, we hear the music of God’s mercy for his people, thanks to the intercessory intervention of Moses. Lastly in the First Letter of Paul to Timothy we are moved to hear Paul’s confession of Christ’s mercy towards him: “so that in me, as the foremost, Christ Jesus might display all his patience” (Second Reading).

DOCTRINAL MESSAGE
Love and forgiveness: the two faces of mercy. The God whom Christ “paints” for us in the three Gospel parables is a God of love. God loves sinners, and therefore, he seeks them out as a good shepherd seeks out lost sheep; or as a master of the house seeks out a cheque that he has misplaced, until he finds it. God loves the sinner, as a father loves his children: both the “rascal” who leaves home asking for his inheritance in advance, and the son who stays homes but who relates with his father in a distant and almost unsociable way. Since he loves, he can only but show his love: forgiving, communicating love, celebrating, inviting everyone to share his joy. This picture of God, painted by Christ, moves us and encourages us to live worthily as sons and daughters. This picture of God is more impressive if we put it alongside the picture offered us by the First Reading, taken from the story of Exodus. The sacred author narrates what could be called “the original sin” of the people of Israel: having just “signed” the covenant with Yahweh, they break it, making a bull from melted metals, converting it into their “god” in place of Yahweh. God is full of anger and wants to exterminate them. It is only the intercession of Moses that succeeds in making God “repent” and open the door of his heart to mercy. Undeniably we have here progress in the revelation of God’s heart! With St Paul, we realize that now, God’s mercy takes as its name “Jesus Christ”. In effect, he has not only shown himself merciful, pulling him from his blindness on the road to Damascus, but also putting so much trust in him that he has called Paul to preach the Gospel of mercy to the whole world. How can we not feel deep gratitude before such magnanimity shown us by Christ!

Characteristics of divine mercy. 1) First of all, we need to highlight that God’s mercy is not subject to the laws of time, in two senses: first, any moment is right for the Good Shepherd to seek out the lost sheep, or for the son to set out for the the father’s house; second, the door to the Father’s house is open 24 hours a day – he has no office hours. No one can say to God: “When I sought you, you were not there.” 2) Divine mercy never ends; it is marked by the eternity that He is and in which He lives. While life exists, there is always the possibility of going to Him and being received in the Father’s arms. God does not look at the unworthy behavior that we have, nor the number of times we have abandoned or despised him. He only sees the interior movements of the soul that years for forgiveness and the father’s embrace. He sees the moist eyes, like emeralds shining with repentance. He sees the hesitant steps of one who approaches to say, “I have sinned. Forgive me. What would you have me do?” God doesn’t focus on the type of sin, but on the type of soul. 3) God’s mercy transforms people, causes a certain revolution in the life of man. The people of Israel, in the midst of so many difficulties and in spite of its falls and infidelities, always raised high the flag of a faithful God, redeemer of his people. St Paul’s case is illuminating: He put all his talents at the service of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and spent his life for him. We don’t know how the story of the two sons finishes, but … why not think that they ended up becoming dear and faithful children?

PASTORAL APPLICATIONS
The “difficult” science of Christian forgiveness. The Bible, Old and New Testaments, is the seat from which God teaching Christians, and all people, the science of mercy, love and forgiveness. It is a science whose training lasts for a lifetime, because at any moment of life, the grip of hate or the despair of suffering is lurking near. How do I love someone who has defamed or calumniated me, whether in private or publicly? How do I forgive someone, who when I was away, entered my house and looted it? How do I forgive someone who got my daughter into the black tunnel of drug addiction, destroying her and our family? These and other similar questions, show how difficult the science of Christian forgiveness is. But the ideal is clear. If we have obtained a passing mark in this hard and strange subject, we will be pleasing to the Lord and we continue to try to achieve higher marks. However, let’s not be discouraged is we are still far from this ideal. Let’s keep before our eyes the decision and the will to learn this mysterious science, despite all the obstacles that we might encounter. Then, let us seek to exercise forgiveness of others for their lack of respect and attention, even if small, the practical jokes people play on us, etc., in order to increase our capacity for forgiveness through its exercise. Let’s read frequently too the Bible, above all those parables of mercy, the psalms in which divine mercy shines forth in an admirable way, and countless other texts in which God’s mercy in action appears. In short, let’s lift our gaze and our heart to Christ, to his whole life – from the Incarnation to his Cross and Resurrection – so that in assiduous and prayerful contact with his life, and in the mystery of Christ, we can assimilate step by step, little by little, the amazing science of Christian forgiveness. A difficult science! Our whole being rebels before certain cases and situations. An amazing science! With the forgiveness of an offense, all of humanity in a certain way becomes better and more dignified, and God can say, “For this alone, it was worth creating mankind!”

The power of intercession. Intercession is another name for love. Whoever intercedes makes him or herself a bridge of love between the offender and the offended person. They love the offended person, and therefore share their pain, but they have sufficient trust to intercede in favor of the offender. They love the offender, seeking to bring them to repentance for what they have done, and even try to get them to ask forgiveness from the offended person. In this way, through intercession, reconciliation is obtained and even friendship is established. Christian intercession doesn’t exclude any area of life: interceding for a family member before someone who has been offended; interceding for someone condemned to death so they might not be executed; interceding for political prisoners so they might be set free, etc. But Christian intercession is eminently religious: It is interceding before God for sinners. It is what Moses does in the wake of the sin of the Israelites, as we hear in the First Reading. It is above all what Jesus Christ does, since his whole life can be summarized as a constant intercession before the Father in order to achieve the redemption of sinful humanity. In the Catechism, we are taught: “Intercession is a prayer of petition which leads us to pray as Jesus did. He is the one intercessor with the Father on behalf of all men, especially sinners” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2634).

***************

See Today’s Readings: Cycle C

See Other Homily Option

Back to Other Homily Sources

Back to: Twenty Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)

Posted in . | Leave a comment

Twenty Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)

Ex 32:7-11,13-14; 1Tim 1:12-17; Luke 15:1-32

OTHER HOMILY SOURCES from e-priest

Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time (C)

God’s True Opinion of Sinners

These parables teach us more about the heart of God than a whole library full of theological treatises.

  • They show us vividly that God cares about each one of us: he will not rest if only one sheep is missing, or one coin is lost.
  • They show us that he cares deeply enough to go out of his way to save us when we are lost: it was certainly an inconvenience to go bushwhacking after the foolish stray sheep, and to light the lamp and sweep the dirt-floored house trying to find the lost coin.
  • They show that God rejoices when we return to him, as the shepherd rejoices upon retrieving his sheep, and as the woman rejoices upon recovering her coin – every sinner who returns to God causes a joyful celebration to break out in the halls of heaven and the heart of the Father.

This portrait of goodness is set in high relief by the contrary attitude of the Pharisees, whose self-righteous and judgmental comments provided the occasion for these parables.

  • If the Pharisees had possessed Christ’s power and authority, they would have destroyed all “sinners.”
  • But Christ uses all his power and authority to bring sinners back into communion with God.
  • The Pharisees’ idea of God is off base.
  • They see God as harsh and judgmental, when the truth is that God is a dedicated shepherd.
  • God feels anxiousness in regards to sinners, not anger.
  • He wants them back. He doesn’t want to condemn them.

The Pharisees can’t understand this, because they have painted their image of God in their own likeness.

  • They enjoy condemning others for being less perfect than themselves, because it feeds their vanity, making them feel superior.
  • But the Lord has no vanity, only love.

Moses Gets It Right (linked to First Reading)

This limitless and entirely selfless desire to save sinners was revealed most fully by Christ on the cross, but it is also the main theme behind every other episode in salvation history.

We just listened to one of those episodes.

  • While Moses had been up on the mountain in prayer, receiving the Law from God’s own hands, the Israelites down in the valley had lost hope and abandoned their faith.
  • Instead of continuing to trust in the God who had already done so many miracles to save them from slavery and lead them to safety, they gave up on God.
  • They rebelled against him, turned their backs on him, and built an idol out of gold.
  • From the Pharisees’ perspective, God should have simply destroyed them.
  • That’s the natural view of things, which God seems to adopt in his conversation with Moses, when he says he is going to destroy these faithless, stiff-necked people.

But God doesn’t mean it. He is only testing Moses. And Moses passes the test.

  • Moses has just spent weeks in prayer, in God’s presence.
  • He has been faithful to God’s will through some very difficult times.
  • And so, by this point in his life, Moses has come to understand the heart of God, a heart built for forgiveness.
  • Knowing this, Moses doesn’t hesitate to pray for his people.
  • He knows they deserve punishment, but he knows that God wants to give them another chance, and so he asks confidently for that, and God grants his prayer.

This is a rough, Old Testament sketch, of the God who was already planning to send his Son to take upon himself the punishment that sinners deserved.

  • Our God doesn’t dish out his mercy drop by drop from an eye-dropper.
  • Our God showers us with his patience, forgiveness, and love – like a waterfall.

St Paul’s Main Point (linked to Second Reading)

This is the lesson that St Paul tries to explain to Timothy in the Second Reading.

  • He is telling his disciple, Timothy, about his own experience of Christ.
  • And he emphasizes Christ’s patience and mercy.
  • He actually sums up Christ’s entire mission with one short sentence:
  • “This saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”

Paul knows this, because he recognizes that he himself is a “foremost” sinner, and yet God singled him out for a great mission, and gave him an abundant experience of his grace.

  • Paul had been a violent persecutor of Christians.
  • He had been intent on destroying Christians, on putting them to death for blasphemy. He had been a Pharisee.
  • Now, having experienced Christ’s mercy and grace, he has become the apostle of forgiveness.

Portrait of a Good Shepherd

The good shepherd was one of the favorite figures in early Christian art.

It is an image that God uses to describe himself throughout the history of salvation, in the Old Testament as well as the New.

If we pause to let our imaginations explore it, it will help us appreciate this message of God’s tireless mercy.

Picture the scene:

  • A shepherd counts his sheep after a long day of grazing, as the sun goes down.
  • One is missing. He counts again. Yes, one sheep has wandered away from the flock.
  • High on the mountainside pasture, the air is already getting cold as daylight fades. The flock huddles together.
  • The shepherd leads them into a natural hollow under an overhanging cliff.
  • He turns around and retraces his steps; he sets out to find the lost sheep.
  • He stumbles over sharp rocks in the lengthening shadows. He has to climb off the path, pushing through brambles and thorns.
  • He pulls his cloak tighter around him to keep out the chill. It starts to drizzle. Will the wolves come out in the rain?
  • There is no moon tonight, and the clouds block out the stars. Maybe he should turn back while he can still find his way. He will come and search for the lost sheep in the morning…
  • A wolf howls; the morning may be too late. He trudges on.
  • The mud is slippery. The wind picks up. Water drips down the back of his neck. Soon he is soaked to the skin. The night crawls on.
  • He will find his sheep. That’s what matters. He is a good shepherd.

This is what Jesus wants us to have in mind when we find ourselves lost, stuck in our sins, separated from him and from others.  He wants us to see him as our Savior, not as our punisher.

The Right Spin on Confession

This message of God’s attitude towards sinners gives us the secret to the sacrament of confession.

Our fallen human nature, egged on by the devil’s temptations, tends to see confession as something unpleasant.

  • We tend to avoid it, or not to look forward to it.
  • But think about that for a minute. Have you ever gone to confession and felt worse afterwards than you did before?
  • Of course not.

God didn’t invent the sacrament of confession in order to torture us.  He invented it because he loves us.

It is not meant to be drudgery.  Nor is it God being manipulative or coercive.

  • Rather, confession is God’s way of making it as simple and direct as possible for us to come back into the flock after we have wandered off.
  • It is the perfect way for us to let him take us back into his arms, back into his home after we have turned away from him,
  • just as the father in the parable took back his prodigal son,
  • and just as the woman searching for the coin rejoiced when she had it back in her possession.

God knows the devil will keep sowing doubts in our hearts about whether or not God really can forgive our sins, especially the particularly bad ones that we are most ashamed of.

God loves us too much to leave any room for that kind of nagging doubt.  So he gives us the sacrament of confession to cut right through the devil’s deceptions.

If we aren’t using this great gift regularly, every month, for example, we probably need to examine our idea of God.

  • Do we see him as our loving Father whose mercy and care are limitless?
  • That’s how he wants to be seen – because that’s how he is.

Disciplining Our Thoughts

It is sometimes hard for our fallen human nature to see God’s mercy clearly.

  • We tend to be judgmental, so we also tend to project that – wrongly – onto God.
  • This wrong conception can be detrimental to our maturity and peace of mind.
  • It puts a wall around our own hearts, so that God’s love can’t reach in and transform us.
  • And it also puts a wall between us and other people. We become so fixated on their flaws that we become blind to their true value as God’s children.

There is no easy way to tear down these walls.

  • We have to do it, with the help of God’s grace, one brick at a time.
  • But the more bricks we take down, the easier it gets – the wall gets weaker as it loses bricks.

We can make progress in this area by doing two things.

First, by using frequently the sacrament of confession:  the mercy and forgiveness we experience there helps us to be more merciful and understanding toward others

Second, by purifying our critical thoughts.

We actually have control over which thoughts we pay attention to.

  • For example, when we notice the dedication of someone we work with and feel a sense of admiration, that’s a worthy thought. We should dwell on it, feed it, and draw strength from it.
  • But when we catch ourselves looking down on someone, or when we start to feel dislike for someone because they do better than we do, those are unworthy thoughts, and we should turn away from them.
  • This mental discipline is one of the most important factors in our spiritual growth.

This week, when critical and judgmental thoughts come knocking, let’s purposely send them away – even if they try to batter down the door to our mind.

And let’s welcome and entertain the good thoughts, the ones that reflect God’s own thoughts.

If we try, Christ will help us – after all, that’s what good shepherds do.

The Meaning of Life

Christ’s parables always teach us something about God, but they also teach us something about ourselves.

The parables we just listened to clearly highlight God’s mercy, his active love for sinners.

But they also give us an answer to the most difficult and urgent question that the human family has had to face in every generation: what is the meaning of our lives?

First, the parable of the lost sheep:

  • When a sheep is lost and separated from the flock, it is helpless and vulnerable.
  • It needs the flock and the shepherd to protect and guide it.
  • Just so, every human person is created to find meaning and fulfillment in communion with God and others – thus the two great commandments of loving God and loving our neighbor.
  • We were not created to be isolated, self-sufficient islands; we are meant to depend on God and others as we pursue happiness.

Second, the parable of the lost coin:

  • The lost coin is completely without value unless it is possessed by its owner, unless it is part of the household’s economy.
  • Even if it had been a gold piece worth 1000 day’s wages, it would be completely worthless if it stayed buried in the dust under the sofa – it would be of absolutely no use to anyone.
  • Likewise, our actions and efforts in life only have real value when they are connected to the mission of the Church, the mission of building up Christ’s Kingdom.
  • Outside of the Kingdom we can do things and have adventures that appear exciting, but they lack the eternal value that they are meant to have, just like the coin that was lost.

Both parables reiterate the same lesson: our lives can only find meaning and fulfillment through Christ, with Christ, and in Christ.

The Advantage of Knowing Life’s Purpose

It’s easy for us to forget how privileged we are to know life’s true meaning.

Any Catholic who has received the gift of faith and studied the Catechism knows

  • where we came from, why we are here,
  • why life is at times so difficult,
  • where we are going,
  • and how to get there.

Christ has given us the answers to these questions through his revelation and through the teaching of the Church.

Those who have no faith, or those who have abandoned their faith in Christ, have no solid answers to these questions.  That is not a happy position to be in.

  • For example, H. G. Wells, famous historian and philosopher, said at age 61: “I have no peace. All life is at the end of the tether.”
  • The great nineteenth-century poet, adored and emulated by generations of scholars and artists, Byron said, “My days are in yellow leaf, the flowers and fruits of life are gone, the worm and the canker, and the grief are mine alone.”
  • The American literary genius Thoreau pointed out, “Most men live lives of quiet desperation.”
  • Ralph Barton, one of the top cartoonists of the nation, left this note pinned to his pillow before taking his own life: “I have had few difficulties, many friends, great successes; I have gone from wife to wife, from house to house, visited great countries of the world, but I am fed up with inventing devices to fill up twenty-four hours of the day.”

Christ came to earth precisely to make sure that we don’t have to “kill time” in life.  Precisely to make sure that we never have to fall into the confusion, frustration, and despair of those who don’t know what life is all about.

[Quotations found at http://www.bible.org]

 

Polishing Up Our Priorities

Now that we have been reminded of the true meaning of our lives, we should be able to polish up our priorities for the week.

What enables us to mature as human beings and as Christians is staying close to the shepherd.

  • That means having a healthy prayer life and being true to the voice of conscience, which is one of our shepherd’s favorite ways to guide us.
  • Maybe some of us have been slacking off in our prayer life or ignoring our conscience.
  • Today, let’s ask our Lord’s forgiveness and make a fresh start.
  • [You may want to recommend a good book on prayer or your favorite prayer book and remind them of the confession schedule.]

And what enables us to fulfill our mission in life is staying plugged into the Church’s mission.

That means knowing what the Church teaches, appreciating what the Church offers her children.

  • Maybe some of us have slacked off in this area.
  • Maybe we haven’t picked up a Catholic book in months, or years.
  • Maybe we don’t even know that Pope Benedict published a book on Jesus Christ.
  • Maybe we never really studied our Catechism and have a lot of vague ideas about our faith.
  • It is our responsibility not to let ourselves get lost under the sofa again, now that Christ has searched us out.
  • [Here you can mention the parish programs that will be starting in the fall and encourage parishioners to sign up. Or you could simply recommend that parishioners make a stop at a good Catholic website every time they are on the World Wide Web. We recommend http://www.ncregister.com and http://www.catholic.net ]

After we pray the Creed in just a few seconds, when we make our offerings to God, let’s put in the basket more than just dollars and cents.

  • Let’s also put in that basket a promise to renew our effort in living life the way Christ wants us to live it.
  • If we make the decision, Christ himself will help us follow through with it. After all, that’s what good shepherds do.

Being Good Shepherds

Christ is our good shepherd.  He has searched us out and brought us back home many times.

But he doesn’t want to do everything by himself.  He wants us to be good shepherds too.

In fact, that’s his favorite way of finding lost sheep and gathering lost coins: by sending us out to bring them in.

  • Making us co-shepherds is not Christ’s way of punishing or burdening us. Rather, it’s his way of making us share more fully in the joy of his Kingdom.
  • The common denominator of these parables is the joy felt once whatever was lost has once again been found.
  • The friends of the woman who found her coin are joyful, and they celebrate with her. But the woman herself is indescribably more joyful.
  • When Jesus works through us to bring our friends, family members, colleagues, and acquaintances closer to him, he is giving us a chance to experience that kind of joy more intensely.

Jesus came all the way from heaven to earth in order to rescue his lost sheep.

When he asks us to go a little bit out of our way in order to encourage or serve our neighbor,

  • to visit the sick,
  • to share our faith with someone who is searching for life’s meaning,
  • he is giving us a chance to participate in his very own mission.

This is the only mission that makes our actions on earth reverberate into eternity.

Maybe some of us can think of some specific sheep who are wandering.  Let’s promise Christ that this week we will do our best to bring them back.

For the rest of us, let’s ask Christ to make use of us this week to find a lost coin or rescue a lost sheep.

If we ask sincerely, there’s no way he’ll be able to say no.

The Danger of a Superficial Faith

The Parable of the Prodigal Son is like a kaleidoscope: it offers countless beautiful insights into what it means to follow Christ.

One of the insights we often overlook has to do with the greatest danger we face as so-called “practicing Catholics”: the danger of living our faith only on the surface, of not letting it penetrate the depths of our hearts.

This parable teaches us that it is possible to live “in the Father’s house” without really getting to know the Father.

  • The younger son didn’t really know his father.
  • He didn’t know how much his father loved him and how eagerly his father wanted to bequeath him prosperity and joy.
  • As a result, he paid his father a colossal insult by demanding his share of the inheritance while his father was still alive.
  • It was a way of saying that his father would be of more use to him dead than alive.
  • The older son was no better.
  • On the surface he seemed to do everything right, but he had no idea about how much his father cared for him, and so he resented the celebration at this brother’s return.

Although they had lived their entire lives under the same roof, the two brothers had never opened their hearts to their father; they had closed themselves into the petty little world of their egoism.

We can easily do the same:

  • spend our whole lives as “practicing” Catholics,
  • going through all the right motions and looking great on the outside,
  • but not opening our hearts to God, not getting to know him on a personal, intimate level.

That’s a risky way to live our faith:

  • we could easily end up separated from the Father for good,
  • eating corn husks and missing out on the joyful celebration of the Father’s love.

Too Busy for Christ

This summer (July, 2007) a group of Christian sociologists published the results of a study that they had been conducting over a five-year period called, “The Obstacles to Growth Survey.”

  • It was conducted on 20,009 Christians with ages ranging from 15 to 88 – the majority of whom came from the United States.
  • The survey found that on average, more than 4 in 10 Christians around the world say they “often” or “always” rush from task to task.
  • About 6 in 10 Christians say that it’s “often” or “always” true that “the busy-ness of life gets in the way of developing my relationship with God.”
  • According to the study, professionals whose busy-ness interferes with developing their relationship with God include lawyers (72 percent), managers (67 percent), nurses (66 percent), pastors (65 percent), teachers (64 percent), salespeople (61 percent), business owners (61 percent), and housewives (57 percent).

The authors of the study concluded that the accelerated pace and activity level of the modern day is distracting us from God.

Here was their line of reasoning:

  1. Christians are assimilating to a culture of busyness, hurry and overload, which leads to
  2. God becoming more marginalized in Christians’ lives, which leads to
  3. a deteriorating relationship with God, which leads to
  4. Christians becoming even more vulnerable to adopting secular assumptions about how to live, which leads to
  5. more conformity to a culture of busyness, hurry and overload. And then the cycle begins again.

It is possible to ascribe too much weight to sociological studies, but this one certainly harmonizes with the experience of the two sons in the parable.

  • Something made them so self-centered and distracted that they were never able to get to know their father. Maybe it was busyness, maybe it was something else.
  • If nothing else, the survey gives us food for thought.

[Information from an article in the Christian Post Reporter, July 30, 2007]

The Problem of the “Lapsi”

One of the saints whose memory the Church celebrates today (September 16) is St Cyprian of Carthage, a bishop from North Africa who died in 258.

He was bishop during one of the worst crises to hit the Church under Roman rule.

And it was a crisis caused by the kind of superficial Christian living that our Lord is warning us about today.

  • St Cyprian became a bishop during a long period of peace in between official Roman persecutions of Christians.
  • During those easy days, many Christians fell into routine, and many converts were embracing Christian camaraderie more than Christ.
  • When the next horrible wave persecution erupted under the Roman Emperor Decian “[DEH-chee-uhn], hundreds, even thousands, of these superficial Christians collapsed under the threat of torture, banishment, and execution.
  • They sometimes publicly renounced their faith in order to save their skin.
  • Other times they simply purchased forged certificates claiming that they had renounced their faith.
  • In both cases, these Christians were giving up their friendship with Christ in order to avoid suffering for Christ.

When that wave of persecution finally subsided, the Church was faced with a huge problem.

  • The thousands of “lapsi” (those who had “lapsed” under duress) wanted to come back into the Church.
  • But many Christians who hadn’t lapsed, and many bishops, said that lapsing was an unforgivable sin.
  • Divisions arose, heresies ignited, and by the time St Cyprian and Pope St Cornelius had been able to calm things down, entire communities of Christians had broken away from the Catholic Church.
  • Some historians even say that the divisions that arose as a result of those weak Christians contributed later to the easy spread of Islam by isolating many of the Christian communities.

God’s mercy is limitless, true, but that doesn’t mean that we are exempt from doing our part to become mature, authentic Christians.

Two Antidotes to Hypocrisy

It is frightening to think about the two brothers from this parable.

  • Both of them thought that they knew their father.
  • They didn’t realize that they were blinded by self-centeredness.
  • [Here you can refer back to the illustration you used, e.g., just like the Christians in the survey – they certainly didn’t want their relationship with God to deteriorate, but it was doing so anyway, right under their noses.]

How can we avoid falling into the same tragic situation, of living in the Father’s house without really letting the Father’s grace touch our hearts?

First of all, we need to humbly ask God to help us recognize our faults, so that we can work to overcome them.

  • One simple way to do this is to live our weekly celebration of the Eucharist consciously, to make a concerted effort to mean the words that we say during the Mass, and to mean the words that the priest says.
  • The words of the liturgy are full of the mystery of God.
  • They are a template for a deep relationship with the Father.
  • If we make a conscious effort to listen to them and to mean them, they become a source of enlightenment and renewal, not just a routine.
  • One way to help ourselves make that effort is to arrive a few minutes before Mass, so as to let the noise of life’s busy-ness die down before the sacred celebration begins.

Secondly, if we truly want both to live in the Father’s house and get to know the Father’s heart, there is no better means to do so than regular and frequent confession.

  • This is the constant and undeniable experience of the saints.
  • Confession forces us to exercise the virtue of humility, the unbreakable shield against superficiality and hypocrisy.
  • [You may want to remind your parishioners of the confession schedule/availability in the parish.]

When we receive Christ today in Holy Communion, let’s ask for the grace to stay always close to his heart, and let’s promise him that we will do our best to make that grace take root.

The Best Defense Is a Good Offense

There is one simple way we can be sure to avoid living in the Father’s house without really knowing the Father: communicating to others what we know about God.

Pope John Paul II used to say that there is no better way to grow in our faith than by giving it away.

  • Well, our faith tells us that God our Father loves each one of us with an everlasting love.
  • It tells us that he loved each one of us so much that he sent his only begotten Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.
  • It tells us that God is always watching over us, especially when we stray from the flock or get lost in a dark corner.
  • Our faith tells us that God never gives up on us.

If the brothers of the parable had formed strong convictions about these qualities of their father, they would never have fallen into their joyless and fruitless rebellions.

  • We have an opportunity to learn from their mistake.
  • If we make a conscious effort to tell others about this God who is pure goodness, untiring mercy, and all-powerful wisdom, we will be sure to deepen our own knowledge of him.
  • And the devil won’t have a chance to plant lies in our minds, because our minds will be constantly full of the truth that we are trying to communicate.

Strengthened with the grace we will receive during this Mass, let’s promise Christ today that this week we will take advantage of every opportunity he gives us to share with others what God has told us about himself.

If we do, we will be sure to stay not only safe in the Father’s house, but eternally safe in the Father’s heart.

***************

See Today’s Readings: Cycle C

See Other Homily Option

Back to Other Homily Sources

Back to: Twenty Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)

Posted in . | Leave a comment