24th. Sunday in Ordinary Time- Year C.
Commentary Theme for this Sunday:
“A God Who Loves Without Taking Into Account The Merits.”
Today we worship the man Christ, who accepted every weakness of our human condition, renouncing himself and taking up the Cross.
All three of this Sunday’s readings converge on the same theme.
In the first we see God who forgives the people of Israel though they had gone back to idol worship. His forgiveness is gratuitous, and is not subject to any condition, he does not wait to see if they are going to deserve his forgiveness. He is led only by his love.
The Gospel celebrates what was lost and has been found. It speaks of the love and forgiveness of God. We may ask what the ‘little sheep’ could have done to merit the attention of the shepherd. Nothing! It had just got lost, that’s all.
The example of Paul proposed by the second reading completes today’s catechesis.
It is recommended that the actual readings are first studied and then meditated upon with a prayer to the Holy Spirit to grant you the gift of ‘wisdom’ to understand the meaning of the messages of Love, Forgiveness and the Offer of Salvation that the Lord has for each one of us in the Holy Bible.
These commentaries, which have been extracted and summarised for our meditation are from the published works of priests who have by their Divine inspiration become acclaimed scholars of the Scriptures and generally reflect the Church’s understanding of the readings.
These commentaries are not meant to replace the Sunday Homily at Holy Mass but are provided as an additional guide to assist and further enhance our understanding of the Sunday Liturgical Readings.
‘Daily Reflections’ and a Prayer are included to enable us to ‘Live the Word’ during the week following the Sunday Mass. We will begin to understand the meaning of gratuitous love and our life’s true purpose. Through His Word we will follow the Light to help fulfil the mission that has been given to each one of us by our Creator.
“Allow the Spirit of God to break the chains that keep us from understanding and accepting the word of God.”
Exodus 32:7-11, 13-14.
The first reading tells us how the ‘chosen people’ rebelled shortly after their deliverance from Egypt. Moses their leader climbed Mount Sinai to communicate with God. In his absence, the people became impatient and ‘cast for themselves an image of a calf, and … worshipped it’, despite their ‘Covenant’ with God.
To worship one’s ‘god’ in the form of a bull was fairly common among the pagan peoples in ancient biblical times. Even Jeroboam did this (1Kgs 12:28). In doing so, the people disobeyed the first of the Commandments. In anger, God said to Moses: “Now let me alone, so that my wrath may burn hot against them; and of you I will make a great nation. Moses pleaded, “Remember your promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob”. So “the Lord changed his mind about the destruction that he had planned to bring on his people.” Moses was a successful mediator and proved the quality of his leadership and compassion by pleading selflessly with God for his people. Moses knew that he could not base his argument on human good will and that salvation can only be obtained by trusting in God’s mercy. In prayer, he begins by reminding the Lord of all his unconditional promises to the Patriarchs, and concludes: do you want the Egyptians to say that you have not kept your word? Moses’ prayer was answered.
The behaviour of the people of Israel was similar to what we do nowadays. On the day of our baptism and confirmation we celebrate being freed from the slavery of the ‘old life’. But our enthusiasm is short-lived. Slowly but surely we seem to return to our old pagan ways and habits by worshipping many different gods. Today, we may not create specifically ‘golden calves’ but we certainly have many idols that the world has created for us to choose from. We are frail and weak and fall easily into temptation by the lure of the false promises that these idols and the world bring to us. What should we do?
We often talk about God’s plan as if there were only one. Actually, it appears that he has blueprint after blueprint. If plan ‘A’ does not work, plan ‘B’ is launched almost at once. It is important to keep in mind that during those times when we fall away from what we perceive to be God’s plan, it can always be countered by God’s actions to draw us back into the fold. Nothing is lost that cannot be found. God is not called the ‘Creator’ for nothing! If we are to benefit from God’s forgiveness, we have to acknowledge that we have sinned. We have all at some time put our trust in powers other than the Lord God, powers like money or sex or comfort or in personal achievement. We need to acknowledge our wanderings so that we can be aware that God loves us anyhow, in spite of our sins. God forgave the Israelites and the ‘prodigal son’. He wants to forgive us too.
Psalm 51:3-4, 12-13, 17, 19.
Psalm 51, the ‘Miserere’, sensibly but probably inaccurately is ascribed to David after one of his less creditable exploits with Bathsheba (2 Sm 11). The richness of the verses shows a deep understanding of the destructiveness of sin and the mercy of God.
1 Timothy 1:12-17.
Paul describes himself before his conversion as a blasphemer, a persecutor and a man of violence. He says: “I was the worst of the lot, and yet the Lord was merciful with me. How could this happen?” He was delivered not by some Moses pleading to God on his behalf, but by Christ the Lord, who came into the world to save sinners. This personal reflection of Paul is reproduced in the lives of so many others who have turned from sin to God. Hence the cry of praise with which the passage begins and ends.
The Gospel of today is proposing to us what are known as ‘the parables of God’s mercy’. The Scribes and Pharisees could not associate with the so-called ‘people of the Land,’ who were labeled sinners because they did not keep the Law of Moses. A very strict barrier was established between them. The rabbis taught: the Lord will rejoice for the ‘resurrection of the just and for the ruin of the wicked’. Jesus instead says that he rejoices for the resurrection of the wicked: “there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner repenting than over ninety nine upright people who have no need of repentance.” A ‘god’ who grants his rewards according to personal merits exists only in the minds of the Pharisees (past and present!).
Jesus chose to eat with sinners and he got severe criticisms from these religious leaders. The term ‘eating together’ is used to show Jesus’ own public ministry. This action manifests two great aspects of Christianity: (1). The God of Christians is responsible for and initiates the universal call to salvation. (2). At Jesus’ table, God is in union with sinners and outcasts. Through Jesus, God empowers people to move from destructive isolation to healing communion with others.
In answer to their criticisms Jesus told them three parables. Each of the three parables has the same meaning: losing – searching for the lost – finding – rejoicing and finally a celebration. The shepherd who finds his lost sheep from the fold of a hundred is happy to bring it back (v.6).
The woman who finds one of her ten pieces of money that was lost is also glad to get it back again (v.9) All people, women and men alike, seek for what is lost and when they find it they also invite people to celebrate with them. The rabbis normally repeated their important teachings twice to impress them in the minds of their listeners. This is why Jesus is telling a second parable that has the same teaching as the first.
The third parable (vv. 11-32) has a father as the main character. This parable is often called “The Parable of the Prodigal Son”, it is about a son who was considered dead and who has come back to life. (Vv. 24, 32). The rich garment, the ‘seal ring’ back on the finger, the fattened calf slaughtered and a celebration with music and dancing are symbols of love and joy, welcoming back the lost son. The joyful father had given his son life once, he now restores him to life once again, gives him back his dignity and rehabilitates him as his ‘reborn’ son. However there is a second and elder son who is already mentioned in the opening verses and now re-enters the story in the middle of the feast. He flatly refuses to go into the feast and to share in the joy of his father. In fact he disowns his brother by calling him “this son of yours” (vv. 28-30). All this goes to show that he too is lost!
The Church is a community of forgiven sinners. What welcome do we give in our community to fellow Christians or even non-Christians who have been broken by life and its sometimes harsh and unforgiving circumstances?
At the end of the Parable of the Prodigal Son, Jesus does not say if the elder brother moves to accept his younger brother who was lost. This story is still being played out in our lives today. ‘The answer is in our own behaviour each and every day’.
‘Acknowledgement and Thanks’ to ‘Recommended Source Material’ by:
Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk, Fr. Fernando Armellini SCI, Peter Edmonds SJ, Richard Baawobr M.Afr, Joseph A. Slattery Ph.D, Adelmo Spagnolo MCCJ, Silvester O’Flynn OFM Cap, J.E. Spicer CSsR, John R. Donahue SJ and Alice Camille – Master’s degree in Divinity.
Reflections for each day this Week:
Almighty God and Father, on the … of the week following
24thSunday of Ordinary Time Year C, we reflect on …
Sun. … How often do the many different ‘golden calves’ of this world pull us away from the ‘way’ that our Lord and Saviour has shown us? To choose a different way, are we not choosing a different ‘god’ and possibly our own destruction?
Mon. … As Christians we have been offered full redemption for our sinfulness through Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross and are given the sacraments of ‘new life’ through his Church. Do we regularly celebrate through the sacraments our freedom from the slavery of our ‘old life’ or is our enthusiasm also short-lived?
Tues. … God’s plan for the salvation of humankind is like a precious gem, a diamond. It is indestructible except by our pride and free choice, and has many facets. God’s actions, even those perceived by us as punishing and destructive are always designed to draw us back into his fold.
Wed. … We each have many possibilities, ‘grave sinner or remarkable saint’. If we think we have gone too far from grace and cannot make our way back, all we have to do is throw ourselves to the mercy of Jesus, as Paul did. Jesus died for sin so that we don’t have to.
Thurs. … “A lamb, a coin and a son”! The losses suffered are very different, but the outcome of each story is the same. “Rejoice with me!” the shepherd cries. “Rejoice!’ says the woman to her neighbours. “Let us eat and celebrate!” the father declares. What was lost is found. When we gather on Sundays, we call it a celebration because we find joy in the reality that each one of us has been ‘found’ and given ‘new’ life through the death and Resurrection of Jesus.
Frid. … Cut off from our Creator and one another, we are adrift from the true meaning of our existence and purpose. Many lost people eat, drink and are merry as they are in a state darkness and ignorance, believing that only death awaits! We all need to come back to the fold (Church) to find God’s ‘Way’ to New Life!
Sat. … As committed Christians we must make opportunities to bring love and God’s mercy to those who are still wandering aimlessly in the dark. If you can recall just one occasion when someone was ‘Christ’ for you, then you will know what it can mean to hold out that hope for others.
Prayer after the Daily Reflection.
Father, by Your great love share with us the joy in finding those who are lost in the darkness of life. May we as Christians bring Your love and mercy to those who still wandering in darkness and lead them into the ‘new light’ through the ‘Good News’ of your Gospel.
This we ask through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives, and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen.
Compliments: Bible Discussion Group.
Our Lady of the Wayside, Maryvale.
“Discovering the Truth through God’s living Word”.