The Word for the 24th Sunday of Ordinary Time:
Exodus 32:7-11, 13-14
Psalm 51:3-4, 12-13, 17, 19
1 Timothy 1:12-17
Luke 15:1-32 (or 15:1-10)
All of this week’s readings scream the message of forgiveness and reconciliation. In Exodus, God is extremely angry at the Israelites turning their back to him, but Moses, using God’s own words, is able to talk him down, revealing God’s ever-present offer of forgiveness. Forgiveness, however, also required contrition. After God relents from punishing Israel, Moses gets to the bottom of the mountain, sees the great sin they have committed, and offers them a choice. If you are for God, stand with me. Those who did not, were promptly dispatched.
Our second reading begins a review of Pauline letters to Timothy. In this first passage, the author writing on Paul’s behalf give us a first-person account of Paul’s story of conversion. Paul always held up his own weaknesses as example of God’s forgiveness. You may recall that Paul himself a devout Jew, fought vigorously against the Christian movement until he had an encounter with the risen Jesus… and if this encounter could change a man like him for the better, then how much easier it would be for others.
As we turn to our Gospel from Luke, we are given three parables. In the opening verses we are given the parable of the lost sheep and the parable of the lost coin. Both of these show us the great length we take to find something that is lost, and the rejoicing that follows when it is found. As it turns out, these were just the warm-up acts, and give added depth to the third parable, that of the prodigal son. This is perhaps one of the most remembered and beloved parables, and is a unique gift from Luke’s Gospel. One reason it sticks with us is because most of us can see ourselves in one or more of the characters in the story, yet can still be awestricken at the Father’s willingness and desire to forgive his son… a forgiveness we can share if needed and desired.
It is also important, with growing tensions over the situation in Syria, and on this anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, to reinforce the Church’s ministry of forgiveness, and review the Church’s teaching on religious tolerance. The prayer vigil hosted this past weekend by Pope Francis is an example of both our desire for peace, and our need to “forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us,” as rooted in the Lord’s prayer.
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