Saturday, September 10, 2016

Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time "A Call to Conversion"

The tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to Jesus, but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying, "This man welcomes sinners and eats with them." So to them he addressed this parable. "What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it? And when he does find it, he sets it on his shoulders with great joy and, upon his arrival home, he calls together his friends and neighbors and says to them, ´Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.´ I tell you, in just the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance. "Or what woman having ten coins and losing one would not light a lamp and sweep the house, searching carefully until she finds it? And when she does find it, she calls together her friends and neighbors and says to them, ´Rejoice with me because I have found the coin that I lost.´ In just the same way, I tell you, there will be rejoicing among the angels of God over one sinner who repents." Then he said, "A man had two sons, and the younger son said to his father, ´Father, give me the share of your estate that should come to me.´ So the father divided the property between them. After a few days, the younger son collected all his belongings and set off to a distant country where he squandered his inheritance on a life of dissipation. When he had freely spent everything, a severe famine struck that country, and he found himself in dire need. So he hired himself out to one of the local citizens who sent him to his farm to tend the swine. And he longed to eat his fill of the pods on which the swine fed, but nobody gave him any. Coming to his senses he 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. His son said to him, ´Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I no longer deserve to be called your son.´ But his father ordered his servants, ´Quickly bring the finest robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Take the fattened calf and slaughter it. Then let us celebrate with a feast, because this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again; he was lost, and has been found.´ Then the celebration began. Now the older son had been out in the field and, on his way back, as he neared the house, he heard the sound of music and dancing. He called one of the servants and asked what this might mean. The servant said to him, ´Your brother has returned and your father has slaughtered the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.´ He became angry, and when he refused to enter the house, his father came out and pleaded with him. He said to his father in reply, ´Look, all these years I served you and not once did I disobey your orders; yet you never gave me even a young goat to feast on with my friends. But when your son returns who swallowed up your property with prostitutes, for him you slaughter the fattened calf.´ He said to him, ´My son, you are here with me always; everything I have is yours. But now we must celebrate and rejoice, because your brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.´"

Introductory prayer: Heavenly Father, help me approach you with love and trust in this time of prayer. Do not allow my past sins and weaknesses to keep me from coming to you.

Petition:In speaking this parable, Lord Jesus, you inspire faith and trust. Banish from me any sense of mistrust and fear of returning to the Father. Put in my heart a deep longing and holy nostalgia for the Father’s house.

1. Chasing an Illusion.
Jesus exposes sin in all its malice and ugliness. Temptation and sin are a lie. Only God can give the happiness and sense of satisfaction that the human person deeply longs for. Sin promises happiness and satisfaction but only leaves degradation and hunger. The parable of the prodigal son illustrates what God himself complained to the prophet Jeremiah centuries before, “They have abandoned me, the font of living water, and built for themselves broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” What the devil and temptation falsely promise, and then betray, God gives quietly and almost unexpectedly to those who love him. The real feast begins when the boy returns to the Father.

2. The Heart of God.
Had Jesus not revealed, and with such force, the fatherly mercy of God, we would have longed for it, without being able to firmly hope for it. The details of this Gospel passage are telling. Jesus defends sinners from their accusers. The father is the first to see his son return. He receives him with joy and love. A sinner who approaches God feels only comfort, strength, forgiveness and a call to love. Discouragement, despair, pessimism... these do not come from God. With God, salvation is always possible.

3. The Righteous Complex.
The Pharisees and the older son do not share in Christ and the father´s outlook on sinners. They have “served” God and “never disobeyed” any of his commands. Yet their hearts are far from God, who for them is not a loving father, only a taskmaster who owes them a wage. Those whose lives have never been marked by the “big sins” always have to be on the lookout for the “big egos” and the subtle pride that makes us see God with silent resentment rather than loving confidence and joy.

Dialogue with Christ:Christ my Lord, I want to thank you for these parables where you reveal the infinite mercy of God. Help me to let go of those false plans I sometimes fabricate for myself and look for my happiness in seeking and fulfilling your will above all things.

Resolution: I will foster a sense of joy and enthusiasm in my duties today so as to cultivate a filial relationship with the Lord.

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