September 15, 2013
Twenty-Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time
Exodus 32, 7-11.13-14; Psalm 51, 3-4.12-13.17.19; 1
Timothy 1,12-17; St. Luke 15, 1-32
Our lives in this world take on the character of a journey in very many ways, but none more so than the way of salvation. In our pilgrimage of faith to our heavenly destination we sometimes fall or turn away in discouragement and sin.
At times the steps necessary for our walk back the Father may seem too many and too arduous for us and we hesitate even to make the first move. Perhaps it is only when we see, like the Prodigal Son, the misery that our sins have wrought, that we are then willing to rouse ourselves to sorrow and to take the path of conversion that leads to the merciful embrace of our heavenly Father, so rich in mercy. When we make even the slightest effort in sorrow, with God’s grace, it is then we see the Father waiting with love to embrace us and welcome us home. Rejection of the love and presence of his father, in the communion of live and love as a family, was a terrible choice for the prodigal son. He desired things over people, his share of the inheritance in preference to a life in communion with the father who gave him life and loved him. He wanted the father to be as if dead to him.
Conversion means to come together with a turning point, to make an about face. The parable of the prodigal son is indeed a conversion story, for the son was faced with the choice of a physical turning around and retracing of his steps back to the Fathers house. Even more, this is a story of a spiritual journey, of a turning back of the soul and spirit of man. Such a reorientation is necessary for one who has rejected the Father, choosing the gifts in preference to the Giver in a sinful way and thus rejecting the will and love of the Father.
“The process of conversion and repentance was described by Jesus in the parable of the prodigal son, the center of which is the merciful father: (Cf. Lk 15:11-24.) the fascination of illusory freedom, the abandonment of the father’s house; the extreme misery in which the son finds himself after squandering his fortune; his deep humiliation at finding himself obliged to feed swine, and still worse, at wanting to feed on the husks the pigs ate; his reflection on all he has lost; his repentance and decision to declare himself guilty before his father; the journey back; the father’s generous welcome; the father’s joy – all these are characteristic of the process of conversion. The beautiful robe, the ring, and the festive banquet are symbols of that new life–pure, worthy, and joyful–of anyone who returns to God and to the bosom of his family, which is the Church. Only the heart of Christ who knows the depths of his Father’s love could reveal to us the abyss of his mercy in so simple and beautiful a way.” (CCC 1439)
Sorrow moved the son to return to whatever might have been awaiting him at his Fathers house. Even the most abject of circumstances, to feed with the pigs, would have been welcome after the misery of his sins.
The only effort required was accepting the grace of sorrow. The Father did all the rest; rushing to meet the beloved son, placing rich and beautiful garments upon him, jewels on his fingers and shoes on his feet, and preparing not the food of beasts but instead the finest food imaginable. Far from what he feared, the son’s sorrow brought great happiness back into his life because of the Fathers rich mercy and infinite love.
“Sin is before all else an offense against God, a rupture of communion with him. At the same time it damages communion with the Church. For this reason conversion entails both God’s forgiveness and reconciliation with the Church, which are expressed and accomplished liturgically by the sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation. (Cf. Lumen Gentium 11.)” (CCC 1440)
Our Father, wise as well as loving, shares his wisdom with us as he invites us to live in communion with him, enjoying the gifts in a life of love with the Giver.
The way of the Lord Jesus as we live it in the Father’s house, the universal Church, is our privileged meeting place with the Father whenever we must return in sorrow for our sins. In every confessional, in the person of every priest-confessor, the Father awaits us, rich in mercy, to welcome us back into his house, and to reclothe us again in the magnificent garment of our baptismal graces. May we always have the humility to submit in love to the Father’s wisdom and thus discover the true happiness of our lives with him now in His Church and forever in His kingdom, when the time of the Church will pass away.
(See also Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph numbers 545, 589, 1423,1443, 1468, 1700, 1846, 2795, 2839.)
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September 15, 2013
Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
The Pharisees and scribes are complaining that Jesus is a companion of tax collectors and sinners: “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” Jesus responds to the criticism through three parables. In the first two parables, a shepherd’s finding a lost sheep and a woman’s finding a lost coin are compared to the joy of God upon finding a lost sinner. In the third parable, Jesus reveals that God is like a father who welcomes back a prodigal son who had left home and foolishly squandered his share of the estate. Furthermore, the father continues to love an older, resentful son who refuses to join in welcoming back his younger brother.
The Prodigal Son and the Golden Calf
The parable of the Prodigal Son and the drama of Israel’s worship of the Golden Calf are some of the best known of all Bible stories. So what do the two stories have in common?
Everyone knows the bible stories of the Prodigal Son and the Golden Calf. But they don’t usually put the two together as this Sunday’s readings do. So what do the two tales have in common?