September 15, 2019
(24th Sunday Ordinary Time, C)
Moses implored the LORD, his God, saying, “Why, O LORD, should your wrath blaze up against your own people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with such great power and with so strong a hand? Ex_32:7-11,13-14
St. Paul said, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Of these I am the foremost.” 1_Tm_1:12-17
Jesus said, “there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.”
Coming to his senses he (the wayward, prodigal son) 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.’ Lk_15:1-32
It’s the story of life, isn’t it? Of morals and feelings, of sadness and joy, of pain and relief. And somewhere within that myriad of emotions and opinions, we find – ourselves. Ourselves in the older son, ourselves in the Pharisee, or the lost rebel, or the compassionate father.
And maybe we also, find our God. Pleased or disappointed, we find our God.
Last, Wednesday, in our first Religious Ed class of the year, we spoke about God as the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end of all time and space. We spoke about how God is the very essence from which we all came to be. And how He is the essence to whom we will return, IF we so choose, within this lifetime of ours.
And I have to give a HUGE amount of credit to those Catechists who preceded me, and to the parents of these children – as Catechists themselves, because, like many of the students of my former 5th Grade classes, these kids are absolutely brilliant! The trick is, keeping them SO.
But what about the rest of us? What about the rest of God’s world? Maybe they’ve given up on the “God-in-the-Sky,” or the “God-on-the-Mountain,” and have resorted to worshiping the gods – in their pockets, instead. Maybe they never understood that their True God has actually been closer than they ever imagined; that their true God has been right there in their own hearts all along.
Maybe they didn’t understand that no matter how far they had wandered, no matter how “foremost of a sinner” they had been, no matter how different they felt from all the rest, no matter how tough their experiences with life and death have been, their God and Father was, and IS, waiting with open arms to welcome them, to welcome us, back home!
And how do we know that? How do we believe that, in the midst of all the darkness that seems to be engulfing us?
Well, for starters, we come here. And we gaaaaze upon that image (that Crucifix) on our wall. It’s the Image of a Father who didn’t just sit at home, waiting. It’s a Father who sent a “Moses” to free us, and to intercede for us. It’s a Father who sent dozens of Prophets to catechize us, to teach us.
It’s a Father who Loves us SO much that, for a time, He set aside His own Divinity to take-on our lowly human form; leaving the 99 behind, sweeping the house in search of us, allowing our infidelity, so as to never force our hand, while at the same time, setting for us, a real-life example of how life can and should be lived. And yet, NEVER, ever closing that invitation for us to return!
In the enormous expanse of Eternal Time, we have a miniscule 90-years, or 40, or 10, or less – to CHOOSE our Eternal Destiny. And no matter how FAR we wander from God’s Truth, Jesus has already atoned for all of our transgressions.
This week, as I was pondering this incredibly, merciful Love of our God, it reminded me of that prayer that we so often say. It reminded me of those words of petition and condition that we make to our God – in the Lord’s Prayer:
We FIRST Petition our Father to “Forgive us our trespasses,” and then we add that Condition: “as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
Of course, we know that, the First Part, the Petition, is already ‘a done deal’ – and we’re looking at the proof on that Cross. Like the Father in Jesus’ parable, who embraced his son – even before a single repentant word ever escaped the boy’s lips, God knows our hearts before we even ask.
And then there’s that Second Part. That Conditional part. The part about OUR forgiving others. It’s probably the fastest phrase we say in the whole prayer, because it really IS – too hard to even think about: “as we forgive those – who trespass against us.”
You see, the truth of the matter IS, that it’s humanly impossible for us to accomplish this – without that First Part, without the atoning forgiveness of Jesus.
Jesus gives us all the strength, all the power, all the humility, all the love – to be just as Merciful as our Heavenly Father . . . as we forgive: those who hurt us, those who hurt our loved ones, those who deny, and persecute, and hate us.
Jesus is our Divine strength.
He is our ONLY hope of ever making that forgiveness possible. And He’s not only waiting to help us with open arms, but He’s actively searching, and seeking, and even blinding us from the darkness of our own sin with His ‘holy searchlight,’ just as He did with St. Paul, so that like St. Paul, we might TRULY see!
In a brief moment we will, again, unite ourselves, in Communion with Jesus, allowing Him to wash-over our souls with His healing Mercy, allowing Him to infuse His Divinity within our humanity, so that we may truly BE God’s Mercy in a world that so needs it.
And when that happens, beloved, in that moment of conversion, in that moment of merciful forgiveness, THEN – we will Rejoice. Then, we will Celebrate, because what was once lost will have been found, and what was once dead (on that Cross) will be Alive forever – in our hearts! Amen.
____________________end of post