11 September 2010

Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

First Reading, Exodus 32:7-11, 13-14
Mercy is the focus of this weekend’s Readings. It would seem that Moses was able to make God change His Mind about blazing up His wrath against His people. But wait a minute -- isn't the will of Almighty God infallible and, therefore, unchangeable? Isn't God the same yesterday, today, tomorrow and forever? What can we, then, rely on from our Lord if everything He has revealed to us is subject to change? There are quite a few cases in Scripture where God seems to have changed His Mind. First, from a prophetic standpoint, Moses is seen as a figure of Christ, a merciful mediator who saves his people. Secondly, God is the Creator and sometimes He creates circumstances in the lives of His people which give them the opportunity to respond like God fearing/loving people. The same is true with the temptations He allows; these too offer the opportunity for a response likened to Christ's response in the desert when He rejected Satan and all his temptations. Rejection of temptations along with mercifulness and forgiveness are characteristics of the children of God. Our success in these exercises moves us to a closer union with our Lord. In this Reading, God opens the door for Moses to respond to Him with love, mercy and concern for his fellow human beings. Another lesson that can be taken from this Reading is the power of intercessory prayer as in this Reading Moses intercedes for the people of Israel. If God is all-knowing and His Divine will infallible, why is prayer necessary or why is there a need to intercede for others? The bulk of that answer is a mystery and solely relies on faith, which requires no explanations. Jesus prayed, therefore, perhaps a more puzzling question is: Why does God Himself need to pray? For human beings, relationships grow through dialogue -- talking and listening. Through this give-and-take friendships and relationships form, trust increases and love grows. Our relationship with our Lord is also approached with these very same ‘human’ conditions. The Catechism teaches us about the intimate relationship of Moses with God as we read: ‘From this intimacy with the faithful God, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, Moses drew strength and determination for his intercession’ (CCC 2577). Jesus not only showed us Who He is as God, but His Human Nature also taught us by word and deed what we need to be as human beings. In our faith, trust is also given to our Blessed Mother and the saints to be powerful intercessors for us as we are called to be for each other. The offering of Christ's Body and Blood appeases the wrath of our heavenly Father Who thus has mercy on His children who continue to this very day to make molten calves in the form of material wealth, power, addictions, etc.

Second Reading, 1 Timothy 1:12-17
Saint Paul writes that ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’. Are there any among us, then, who are unqualified for salvation? In this brief Reading Paul summarizes his life for us. He basically outlines it in this way: Here's what I used to be -- here's what I've become. What I used to be was because of ignorance -- what I've become is because of the abundant grace, mercy and love of God. How many of us have a story to tell? At what point in life did grace, mercy and love overcome our ignorance? There are some who have been devout Christians their whole life -- and thank God for them. There have been enough published conversion stories, however, to be convinced that a great deal of us have walked in Saint Paul's shoes of rebellion. And now that we walk with Christ, perhaps some of us are now waiting for grace, mercy and love to abound in the lives of others we know. Our Christian example is a great tool in helping someone along the way, but unfortunately human weakness desires to know how successful that example is. The truth is it's not our example; it is Christ dwelling in us Who works through us. Fortunately, our Lord's patience immensely outweighs our patience or lack thereof; and our time is not necessarily God's time; and while it's possible to never witness a single conversion, what we don't know and can't comprehend is the deluge of grace, mercy and love that could arrive at the last breath of life. To Him be honour and glory forever!

Gospel, Luke 15:1-32
Families that live in areas which are prone to hurricanes and/or tornadoes quite often have a place of safe haven either in the home or outside of the home that they can go to when such weather extremes threaten their well-being. What man would secure himself in that safe haven without first making sure that every member of his household was present? And even if he should enter the safe haven prematurely but find someone missing, he would certainly go back out to find the missing family member. Even though the threat still awaits them, there is a level of joy when every member of the household is accounted for. What's the difference in value between an old, tarnished quarter and a brand new, lustrous quarter? There is no difference; they're both worth twenty-five cents. In God's Eyes we are each loved equally by Him even though some of us have been caught in the storms of life and have not found the safe haven of our Lord's Sacred Heart and perhaps are more tarnished by sin than others. The condition of the soul, however, should be a personal concern as damaged goods need to be repaired. Henry Nouwen, a Catholic priest and author of over thirty books, who also spent time as a missionary in Latin American countries working with the handicapped, once said: "We are all handicapped; some are more visibly handicapped than others." In all three parables told by Jesus in this Gospel, that which was lost has been found. It would be improper to think that this Gospel is aimed only at those who are not serving the Lord or not walking with Him. Every one of us is a sinner; therefore, every one of us is in need of repentance. When reflecting on the parable of the prodigal son, certainly the father represents our Lord Who runs out to embrace His wayward children who desire to come back to Him. Notice the love that comes from our Lord; He embraces the penitent even before the confession of sin. Perhaps less obvious but still evident though, is that our Lord is also represented by the younger son who haphazardly disperses his father's estate. Christ very freely offers the riches of His Father's Kingdom to each and every one of us regardless of how undeserved we are. The older son in the parable is placed there as a caution to us. He's the one who thought his father's forgiving and receptive attitude towards his younger brother was very unfair. As our Lord tells us, there is rejoicing in heaven when one sinner repents. Curiosity might make one wonder how many souls there are in heaven who lived corruptible and immoral lives. To those of us who make every effort to follow the path of our Lord, it's tempting to consider this unfair. Saint Paul, however, asks the question: ‘Who has ever given Him [the Lord] anything so as to deserve return’? (Romans 11:35). Also, in that same letter are the words: ‘As sin reigned through death, grace may reign by way of justice leading to eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord’ (Romans 5:21). In life, perhaps there's that someone who always plucks your last nerve. The depths of God's mercy are so unfathomable that it's difficult to understand because it's not always so easy for us to forgive. The Sacrament of Penance is where we can find the Father embracing His child, welcoming him/her back home. There is always hope even to the most hardened of sinners. There is a saying: ‘Saints have a past and sinners have a future’. Someday we will all meet our Lord face-to-Face. He may wish to celebrate a feast because what was once lost has been found; or He may say: ‘You are here with Me always; everything I have is yours’. One scenario is not better than the other. In either case, there is cause for rejoicing!