Twenty-Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 132 (NAB Translation)
This week’s first reading is one of the great passages from the book of Exodus. God has led the Hebrew slaves out of Egypt with mighty miracles. He then formed a covenant with them binding them to Himself as His people. Soon however, this Covenant is broken. While Moses was up the mountain receiving instructions from the Lord, the Israelites grow impatient and build an idol of a calf and begin to worship it in place of God. According to the terms of the Covenant the Israelites now deserve death. However, Moses, intercedes for the people before God and God relents. The Catechism states that “from this intimacy with the faithful God, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, Moses drew strength and determination for his intercession…God is love; he is therefore righteous and faithful; he cannot contradict himself; he must remember his marvelous deeds, since his glory is at stake, and he cannot forsake this people that bears his name.” This principle is fully developed in today’s gospel reading.
The response for this Psalm is from our Gospel: “I will rise and go to my father.”
This week’s second reading from Saint Paul’s first letter to Timothy shows the greatness of God’s mercy, with Paul himself as an example. In this passage Saint Paul gives thanks to Jesus Christ for the grace shown to him despite his former way of life which included persecuting Christians. We will recall that prior to Saint Paul’s conversion he had gone as far as to participate in the murder of Saint Stephen. Nevertheless, God was able to use Paul as an example of how Christ could transform the hardest of hearts and forgive those who would repent and believe in him, regardless of their past. Indeed it was for this very reason that Christ came into the world!
In this week’s Gospel from St. Luke, we see the Pharisees resenting Jesus because He associates with “sinners.” Jesus’ responds to them in a series of three parables that show the merciful heart of God the Father.
First, in the parable of the lost sheep, we see the sinners who have wandered away being energetically sought out by the Good Shepherd. The finding of the sheep represents the conversion of the sinner, and the joy of the shepherd depicts the deep love that God has for souls which would be lost.
Likewise, in the Parable of the coin, the value of the coin seems minimal compared to the effort God expends to find it. In this way we see that it is actually God who provides the grace needed to bring to bring sinners to repentance.
Finally, in the story of the prodigal son, we see the full cycle of human sin and the misery that typically follows sin. The son abandons His Father’s home following his passions and desire for “freedom.” Sad and disillusioned by the unavoidable outcome of leaving the Father, grace begins the work of conversion in his soul. The Father’s merciful love exceeds all expectations as the son is given a lavish reception with rings and shoes to restore him. Yet the older son, much like the Pharisees resents this. The story of the older son serves as lesson to those of us who would presume to set limits on God’s mercy.
Reflection question from Bishop Vásquez
Today’s parables sounded absurd to the listeners in Jesus’ day. Each highlights the intense boundless love with which God searches for the lost, as well as the irrationally exuberant joy when the lost are found. The final parable paints a scene of a father who has nothing but total love for his children. One has completely rejected and insulted his family and his faith. The other is a self-righteous child who has never done wrong. How do we act in the role of the father toward others who meet these descriptions? Whom do we fail to love or forgive? What sin do we believe is too big for God’s love, mercy and forgiveness? Does self-righteousness prevent us from being in loving relationships with others?