24th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Exodus 32:7-11, 13-14
1 Timothy 1:12-17
The Gospel this weekend will be this:
The tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to him, 2 but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying, "This man welcomes sinners and eats with them." 3 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? 5 And when he does find it, he sets it on his shoulders with great joy 6 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.' 7 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.
8 "Or what woman having ten coins and losing one would not light a lamp and sweep the house, searching carefully until she finds it? 9 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.' 10 In just the same way, I tell you, there will be rejoicing among the angels of God over one sinner who repents."
11 Then he said, "A man had two sons, 12 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. 13 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. 14 When he had freely spent everything, a severe famine struck that country, and he found himself in dire need. 15 So he hired himself out to one of the local citizens who sent him to his farm to tend the swine. 16 And he longed to eat his fill of the pods on which the swine fed, but nobody gave him any. 17 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. 18 I shall get up and go to my father and I shall say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as you would treat one of your hired workers."' 20 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. 21 His son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I no longer deserve to be called your son.' 22 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. 23 Take the fattened calf and slaughter it. Then let us celebrate with a feast, 24 because this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again; he was lost, and has been found.' Then the celebration began. 25 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. 26 He called one of the servants and asked what this might mean. 27 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.' 28 He became angry, and when he refused to enter the house, his father came out and pleaded with him. 29 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. 30 But when your son returns who swallowed up your property with prostitutes, for him you slaughter the fattened calf.' 31 He said to him, 'My son, you are here with me always; everything I have is yours. 32 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.'"
The first reading will be this:
Exodus 32:7-11, 13-14
With that, the LORD said to Moses, "Go down at once to your people, whom you brought out of the land ofEgypt, for they have become depraved. 8 They have soon turned aside from the way I pointed out to them, making for themselves a molten calf and worshiping it, sacrificing to it and crying out, 'This is your God, O Israel, who brought you out of the land of Egypt!' 9 I see how stiff-necked this people is," continued the LORD to Moses. 10 "Let me alone, then, that my wrath may blaze up
against them to consume them. Then I will make of you a great nation." 11 But 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?... 13 Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, and how you swore to them by your own self, saying, 'I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky; and all this land that I promised, I will give your descendants as their perpetual heritage.'" 14 So the LORD relented in the punishment he had threatened to inflict on his people.
The second reading will be this:
1 Timothy 1:12-17
I am grateful to him who has strengthened me, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he considered me trustworthy in appointing me to the ministry. 13 I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and an arrogant man, but I have been mercifully treated because I acted out of ignorance in my unbelief. 14 Indeed, the grace of our Lord has been abundant, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 15 This saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Of these I am the foremost. 16 But for that reason I was mercifully treated, so that in me, as the foremost, Christ Jesus might display all his patience as an example for those who would come to believe in him for everlasting life. 17 To the king of ages, incorruptible, invisible, the only God, honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
This Sunday is about the mercy of God.
The Gospel is of the parable of the prodigal son. He asks for his inheritance when his father is still alive… as if he were asking his father to die-off quickly! In the first reading, Moses on Mt Sinai is told that the people have offended God in worshipping idols, and that that offense will prevent them reaching the 'promised land', but he's told that his own descendants will eventually reach it. The second reading has Paul telling Timothy that he, Paul, had been given his ministry out of mercy since Paul himself used to be a persecutor of the Christians. The Gospel of today is also calling us to feel sorry for and pray for the ‘Pharisees’ of today.
While self examination is good, it shouldn't take precedence over adoring God. It's good to be aware of our faults, but it shouldn't take precedence over reminding ourselves of God's love! The Hebrew name for God was originally 'Jesed' and that later came to mean 'mercy'. The marvel is that that's precisely how God is. It's what the Cross represents so clearly. The Jews of the Old Testament believed in a merciful God – in that he loved the Jews so much, in spite of their being human beings, however John the Baptist goes farther. He invited the people to recognize their personal faults and to humbly join in 'the queue of sinners'. That was a prologue to Jesus himself, who preached that the humble recognition of one's sins is precisely the attitude for which God longs, and is the doorway to a joyful restart. St Thomas Moore said that if he had to write a summary of the gospels, he'd write the parable of the Prodigal Son.
The whole 'Protestant' rupture along with Martin Luther and company (early c16), included a rejection of the Catholic view at the time. They thought that the Catholics were inventing a God that just 'hides' our sins (putting an 'elasterium' (cover) over them). We should believe that God cures our sinfulness rather than just hiding our sins. That's very much in tune with how our Catholic church has seen 'reconciliation' with God ever since. Poor old Juan Calvin (1509-1564), the French-born Swiss 'reformer' whose followers formed 'presbetyrianism', believed in 'predestination' – "you're either destined to be saved or not". I think that's very mistaken. Christ tells Nicodemus in John 3, that he can be born again!
Unfortunately, some Christian groups didn't manage to recognize the very nature of our God as generously forgiving. Calvin reckoned that the damage in man is done and that we just have to live with that. Catholicism believes it can be healed. The history books talk about the 'puritans'. They reckoned that you're either 'pure' or you're not acceptable to God. It's true that we're all faced with the choice every day, and it's good to give importance to our response – to our moral duties, but we all make nasty mistakes. We're all sinners that aren't very pure!
The Catholic environment, of 14th and 15th century falseness under the name of Christ, benefited from those times of 'reformation'. It's good to accept that we all need 'reformation' in our personal lives. God 'cures' when we humbly confess – and that throws our sins out of the window and there's simply nothing left to cover. Our 'conciences' shouldn't even hold on to the bad memories. We can be reborn – as if we're beginning life completely anew! To say that sins take us definitively away from God goes against what Jesus tried so hard to show us. He cried out from the Cross: "Father, forgive them, for they don't know what they're doing".
Jesus said that all sins can be forgiven except if there's sin against the Holy Spirit. I think that that actually means 'a denial of the desire to be forgiven'! God can't welcome us back home if we don't want to make the humble journey back home!
Also, remember that going to confession is much more than listing off sins. It's an occasion to express outwardly, that you appreciate with humility the tremendous love of God. The one who really needs that expression of faith, is you yourself. As a priest, I like to make this the central part of a persons confession. I ask “Do you believe that God forgives?”. Saying sorry to God for sins is a consequence of that. In that sense St Augustin talked of 'happy sin'. It's our sin which brought about the redemption in Christ, and that's something that's a tremendous Good News.
Remember also that it's not just a question of what we've done but of what we've failed to do - as we say atMass. The former may be a little list, but the latter may be a great expression of love from the heart. It's like that famous gesture of St Bernard who knelt before the cross and held out his hands and exclaimed “My God! They're empty!”.
Unfortunately some are reluctant to open up to our Father, thinking that it would just challenge our consciences. The truth is that what God wants, is to free us from the distress of a guilty conscience. That distress is how I would describe 'hell-fire'. So let's thank Christ (Eucharist). Just as we could say that the 'no' of Adam and Eve affects us all, so we can say the 'yes' of Christ affects us all. And his 'yes' is so much stronger! When we say that God is 'compassionate', it means that he's willing to go through 'passion' in order to be with us.
And the ‘yes’ to which we need to open is also to humbly say yes to receive God’s mercy. The elder son in the parable reckoned that he deserved the father’s approval as opposed to the younger son, yet the father was much more pleased with the younger son simply because he humbly asked for forgiveness. So let’s begin mass saying the Confiteor (“I confess…”) from our hearts. And we say it not just for anything that we’ve done wrong but also for what we’ve failed to do.
Forgiveness (giving more than is deserved) is God's principal joy. Even if I was guilty of the worst sins in the world, even if in a wheelchair, I wouldn't wait a minute to return to my Father!
Domingo 24º: Ex 32:7-11, 13-14. 1°Tim 1:12-17. Lc 15:1-32
Este domingo trata sobre la misericordia de Dios.
El Evangelio es de la parábola del hijo pródigo. Pide su herencia cuando su padre esta toda-vía vivo… ¡como si fuera pedirle al padre morir cuanto-antes posible!
En la primera lectura, Moisés en el monte Sinal se da cuenta de que abajo las personas han ofendido a Dios rindiendo culto a los ídolos, y que esa ofensa les impedirá alcanzar la ‘tierra prometida', pero Dios le dice que sus propios descendientes lo alcanzarán en el futuro. La segunda lectura tiene a Pablo diciendo a Timoteo que él mismo había recibido su ministerio por misericordia, ya que el propio Pablo había sido un perseguidor de cristianos. El evangelio de hoy nos está llamando también a sentir lastima por y orar por ‘los Fariseos’ de hoy.
Mientras que el examen de conciencia es bueno, es aún más importante adorar a Dios. ¡Es bueno estar conscientes de nuestras faltas, pero no debe ponerse por encima de acordarse del amor de Dios que nos salva! Uno de los nombres en hebreo para Dios era originalmente 'Jesed' y ese después vino a significar 'la misericordia’. La maravilla es que Dios es precisamente así. Es lo que la Cruz representa tan claramente. Los judíos del Antiguo Testamento creyeron en un Dios misericordioso – ya que había amado tanto a los judíos, a pesar de su pequeñez de seres humanos, sin embargo San Juan Bautista va más lejos. Él invitó a las personas a reconocer sus faltas personales y a ponerse humildemente en 'la cola de pecadores’. Ése era un prólogo del propio Jesús, quién predicó que el reconocimiento humilde de los pecados de uno es precisamente la actitud que Dios anhela, y es la puerta a un jubiloso reinicio. Santo Tomás Moro dijo que si él tuviera que escribir un resumen de los Evangelios, escribiría la parábola del Hijo Pródigo.
La novedad Protestante de Martín Lutero y compañía, incluso un rechazo del punto de vista católico del momento - de un Dios que 'esconde' nuestros pecados (poniendo un 'elasterium' (una tapa) encima de ellos). Nosotros debemos creer que Dios cura nuestras maldades en lugar de simplemente ocultarlas. Eso está muy conectado con cómo nuestra Iglesia Católica ha visto la reconciliación con Dios desde entonces. Pobre Juan Calvino (1509-1564), el ‘reformador’ Suizo Francés-nacido, cuyos seguidores formaron ‘los presbiterianos’, creyó en 'la predestinación’; él pensaba que "uno es destinado a ser salvado o no lo es". Pienso que eso está muy equivocado. ¡Cristo le dice a Nicodemo en Juan 3, que él puede nacer de nuevo! Desgraciadamente, algunos grupos Cristianos no han reconocido como nuestro Dios perdona generosamente. Calvino pensó que uno es o bueno o malo desde nacimiento, y así es su identidad. El Catolicismo cree que puede sanarse. Los historiadores hablan de los 'puritanos’. Creyeron que uno o es ‘puro’ o no es aceptable a Dios. Estamos todos enfrentados con la opción todos los días, y es bueno dar la importancia a nuestra respuesta - a nuestros deberes morales, pero nos equivocamos todos de vez en cuando. ¡Todos somos esos pecadores que no son muy puros!
El ambiente Católico de los siglos 14 y 15 era de bastante falsedad bajo el nombre de Cristo. Convenía una ‘reforma’. Es bueno aceptar que todos nosotros necesitamos 'reforma' en nuestras vidas personales. Cuando confesamos los pecados humildemente, Dios los hecha por la ventana y no queda nada para esconder. Ni siquiera conviene mantener malos recuerdos. ¡Podemos nacer de nuevo - como si estuviéramos empezando la vida completamente de nuevo! Pensar que los pecados quitan el amor de Dios definitivamente va contra lo que Jesús nos ha mostrado claramente. Clamó en la Cruz: "Padre, perdónales, porque no saben lo que están haciendo".
Jesús dijo que todos los pecados pueden estar perdonados excepto si hay pecado contra el Espíritu Santo. ¡Pienso que aquello es cuando la persona misma ni siquiera pide perdón! ¡Dios no puede darnos la bienvenida en casa si no tenemos la humildad para volver a casa!
También, recuerdo que ir a la confesión es mucho más que soltar una lista de pecados. Es una ocasión para expresar exteriormente, que aprecias con humildad el tremendo amor de Dios. El que realmente necesita la expresión de fe, eres tú mismo. Como un sacerdote, me gusta hacer este la parte central de las confesiones. Pregunto "¿crees que Dios perdona?”. Una consecuencia de los pecados es la búsqueda del perdón de Dios y la alegría de encontrarlo. En ese sentido San Agustín habló del ‘pecado feliz’. Es nuestro pecado que provocó la redención en Cristo, y ésa es la tremenda Buena Nueva.
También recordaos que no pedimos perdón solamente por lo que hemos hecho sino también por lo que hemos dejado de hacer – como decimos al principio de la Misa. El primero puede ser como ‘la lista’, pero el segundo puede ser una gran expresión de amor del corazón. Me acuerdo el gesto famoso de San Bernardo que se arrodillaba ante la cruz con sus manos abiertas y exclamó "¡Dios mío! ¡Están vacíos!”.
Por desgracia, algunos evitan abrirse a nuestro Padre, para evitar examinar sus conciencias. La verdad es que lo que Dios quiere, es librarnos del dolor de una conciencia culpable. Ese dolor es cómo yo describiría 'el fuego del infierno'. Damos muchas gracias a Cristo (la Eucaristía) porque aunque el ‘no’ de Adán nos afecta a todos, podemos decir que el 'si' de Cristo nos salva a todos. ¡Y su 'si' es más poderoso! Cuando decimos que Dios es 'compasivo', significa que está dispuesto a pasar por la pasión para ganarnos.
Y el ‘sí’ al cual deberíamos abrir es en decir sí humildemente para recibir la misericordia de Dios. El hijo mayor en la parábola suponía que merecía la aprobación del padre y no como el hijo menor, sin embargo el menor dio mucho más gusto al padre simplemente porque llegó a pedir humildemente pedir perdón. Entonces empecemos la misa diciendo ‘el confetior’ (“yo confieso”) desde el corazón. Y lo decimos no simplemente por lo que hemos hecho mal sino también por lo que hemos dejado de hacer.
A Dios le encanta perdonar. ¡Aun si yo fuera culpable de los peores pecados en el mundo, aun en una silla de ruedas, yo no esperaría un minuto para volver a mi Padre!
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