Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time (c)

Today’s readings present a shepherd rejoicing over finding a lost sheep, and a housewife rejoicing over finding a lost coin. The two parables are in answer to the Pharisees and scribes complaints about Jesus. They said that He can’t be the Messiah because He welcomes sinners and eats with them. Eating with someone, for the ancients as well as for us, is a way of expressing friendship and love. Jesus does not argue that He is eating with sinners. His argument is that He has called them to God, and they have come. He is friends with them. He loves them. He is full of joy that they have come home to the Father[1].

Jesus is telling us that we should be happy that others have been forgiven. He is also telling us that we should join in the joy of the Lord because we have been forgiven.

Unlike the Pharisees and scribes who saw themselves as holy and who considered everyday people as the hoard of sinners, the vast majority of us are well aware of our failures. The closer we come to Him, the more we are aware of the impact of the times that we did not choose Him. Maybe the problem is that we are focusing on ourselves rather than on God. According to the parables, the Lord is delighted that we are once more in His Company; His focus is not on the past. He doesn’t carry a grudge. His focus is on our present and our presence with Him. Our return to Him is a cause of his joy.

In the spiritual life very often we need to remember that God is bigger than us, infinitely bigger. And God is greater than us, infinitely greater. So what is it that we have done that we think is so bad that God would not invite us to eat with Him? Can anything we have done be beyond God’s compassion and mercy? There is nothing. There is nothing He does not forgive when we take that step and say, “Father forgive me.” His only reaction is pure joy. But if we stay mired in the past, we will have no present and no future.

My brother, my sister, the Lord is calling us into our joy and calling us to move beyond whatever is holding us back. He forgives us. We need to forgive ourselves.

The Scribes and Pharisees did not seem at all pleased that Jesus had forgiven known sinners. We really have to be careful that we don’t behave the same way. Perhaps we come to Mass at times and see someone that we know has done some really bad stuff. What is our reaction? According to the Gospel for today, your reaction and my reaction should be: I am happy he or she is here, choosing Christ. Another’s past is not my concern. I need to be happy for him or her. I am here to eat with him or her. Sadly, I have had people say to me, “Father, that person you were joking with has really done some horrible things.” Oh, so I should avoid him or her and only spend time with the very best of people? That does not sound like the instruction the Gospel for today is presenting.

Perhaps none of us may go to that extreme, but perhaps there are times that the thought comes flashing across our minds: “What is that lowlife doing here?” That is a terrible. That person is here for the same reasons that we are here: compassion, forgiveness, and love. The Lord has compassion on us because He knows what we have done to ourselves. And He has compassion on that person whose presence in Church shocks us. The Lord forgives us. The Lord forgives him or her. The Lord wants us to live in His Love. The Lord wants that person to live in His love.

In fewer words: our Lord came into the world to forgive sinners. Period. And I am one of them. And, with the exception of the angels among us –and our blessed Mother, of course- so are you. So, let try to live in humility and to receive with a big and open heart the mercy and forgiveness of our God every day of our lives ■

[1] Sunday 12th September, 2010, 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time. Readings: Exodus 32:7-11, 13-14. I will rise and go to my father—Ps 50(51):3-4, 12-13, 17, 19. 1 Timothy 1:12-17. Luke 15:1-32

Y entonces uno se queda con la Iglesia, que me ofrece lo único que debe ofrecerme la Iglesia: el conocimiento de que ya estamos salvados –porque esa es la primera misión de la Iglesia, el anunciar la salvación gracias a Jesucristo- y el camino para alcanzar la alegría, pero sin exclusividades de buen pastor, a través de esa maravilla que es la confesión y los sacramentos. La Iglesia, sin partecitas.

laus deo virginique matris