TWENTY-FOURTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (2022)
Exodus 32:7-11, 13-14
Psalms 51:3-4, 12-13, 17, 19
1 Timothy 1:12-17
St. Columbkille’s bulletin has a “Lost and Found.” I have often wondered how many people are actually reunited with reading glasses they might have left behind in a pew, with car keys that they inadvertently dropped, with a seven thousand dollar check which someone mistakenly dropped on the floor (that last example really happened!). I guess “Lost and Found” will always be necessary when there are forgetful, careless, spacey people in the world – which means “Lost and Found” are eternal!
Today’s beautiful liturgy gets one to wonder how many people have gone to a “Lost and Found” looking for their baptismal innocence? I suspect few, for the “Lost and Found” would have to be open twenty-four hours a day, 365 days a year in order to accommodate the masses who would be anxiously looking.
Our first reading from Exodus shows us Moses and God commiserating, and Moses may have overstated his case about how difficult God’s chosen people can be. God is, shall we say, hot under the collar, ablaze with wrath, willing to start over on giving Moses the many progeny he was promised, in spite of all they have been through in their departure from Egypt. Moses successfully persuades a loving God to reconsider His plan to “consume” the idolaters, and the Israelites will have to make a trip to the “Lost and Found” and see if God has saved the good life that they have so needlessly squandered over a piece of gold.
If the Book of Exodus made us feel slightly uncomfortable that God could be that close to destroying those who cross God, our second reading from the first letter to Timothy gives us great cause for joy, for Paul unabashedly states what should be for us the most comforting nine words in the entire Bible: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners!” If we find God anywhere in the Bible inflamed to the nth degree over our sinfulness, St. Paul’s proclamation takes the sting out of that possibility. Of course, one can only take joy in Paul’s statement if the joy-filled person with great humility acknowledges their own sinfulness. This is why last week’s gospel proclaimed the necessity of having a genuine humility.
In a New Testament effort to confirm that point, our regular reading of Luke gives us three of Jesus’ most special parables in the gospels – the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son. In their simple, yet astounding, beauty, they proclaim a God who doesn’t just relent on punishment, but who is eager to forgive, and who came into our world to save sinners. The first parable of the lost sheep portrays that eagerness of God to the extreme. Most listeners would say are you crazy, you go after one sheep and leave the entire flock in danger? Yes, that is who our wild and crazy God is, who, you remember, doesn’t think as man thinks. There are parties galore in this one chapter of Luke, and the shepherd throws a party “because I have found my lost sheep.” Lest the listener miss the point (direction not often accompanying parables) we are told “there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over the ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.”
Not sure how big the coin was (drachma?) in our shortest parable, but it was big enough to elicit a party of friends who rejoiced that the coin was found. Once again it is pointed out that the joy on earth only resembles the joy in heaven where “there will be rejoicing among the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
Finally, Luke’s most famous and longest parable, which is often referred to as the Prodigal Son, is told in great detail, and with far more complex characters than those that inhabit the previous two parables. Indeed, the youngest son is wrong in so many ways. Asking for his inheritance way ahead of time was truly an insult to his father, yet his wish is granted. Clearly not being ‘very good with money,’ he immediately becomes more destitute than the workers on his father’s farm, and he takes a job “tending the swine,” something that will make him unclean and not fit for worship. Nevertheless, what he does find in this ordeal is the essential humility needed to bring him to his senses, and concede to the painful journey back home to ask his father’s forgiveness. When he gets there, much to his surprise, his father runs out to meet him and curiously does, what else? – throw him a party (which upsets the older brother who has always wanted a party). Here too, what was lost is now found, and there is a need to celebrate.
We are at times more “lost” than “found,” and that is something only humility will reveal to us. We are the straying sheep, the coin under the cupboard, the son who is blinded by the pleasure of the moment. Like in the parables, the God figure is looking for us in the “Lost and Found” – He is traversing the fields, moving the furniture, and running off His property just to meet us more than halfway, and welcome us back to the fold. As Paul reminds Timothy, Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, and with the greatest of humility, we need to remind ourselves that that is us! Friends, priests, bishops, even the Church, will let us down, but we need never despair of God’s love, which desires to turn our “lost” into “found.” Then God desires to throw us a party.
1 thought on “TWENTY-FOURTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (2022)”
Even the worst of us can change and repent – as the Lord knows –
He doesn’t give up on us– he is patient ! -He waits for us! That was Pope Francis’ message this week , re not having the death penalty! People can and often do change – even on thier death beds! We sometimes ‘ give up ‘ on people making necessary changes in their-our- lives—– but the Lord -HE waits!
We know that God waits for us to come back to Him—and to be found!
Let us also not give up on people !