OUR GOD IS MERCIFUL AND GRACIOUS, SLOW TO ANGER, AND ABOUNDING IN STEADFAST LOVE AND FAITHFULNESS
Biblical reflection on the readings in the Holy Mass, the 24th Ordinary Sunday, September 12, 2010
First Reading: Ex 32:7-11,13-14; Psalms: Ps. 51:3-4,12-13,17,19; Second Reading: 1Tim 1:12-17; Gospel Reading: Lk 15:1-32
“Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine reighteous persons who need no repentance…… Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Lk 15:7,10 RSV).
Jesus welcomed sinners and even ate with them (Lk 15:2). Seeing all these things happening before their very own eyes, the Pharisees and the scribes murmured to express their dislike. Self-righteously they refused to associate with those sinners. Jesus longed to bring sinners back into the Father’s fold because He loves all people despite their sinfulness. Jesus, who is both the ‘good shepherd’ (Jn 10:15) and the ‘gate’ (Jn 10:7-9), calls “his own sheep by name” so that they may enter the fold as one flock and receive abundant life (Jn 10:3,10). The association of Jesus with sinners offers us an insight into the nature of God. Our God is very forgiving.
The father of the prodigal son in the parable (Lk 15:11-32) searched the horizon hoping for his son’s return. Our heavenly Father also longs for us to return and experience His unconditional love and forgiveness. In the parable, the father had pity for his son. Our heavenly Father has pity for sinners too. He is forever ready to forgive them, as long as they seriously repent of their past sins. Our God is like the shepherd in the parable (Lk 15:4-6) who leaves the ninety-nine and goes in search of the stray until he finds it. Our God is also like a woman in the parable (Lk 15:8-9) who loses a silver coin and cannot rest until she finds it. In earlier time, the Lord’s wrath burned against the wickedness of the Israelites. Yet He relented when petitioned by Moses to remember His great love for His chosen people and His promise to make them a great nation (Ex 32:10,13-14). Our God is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness (Ex 34:6).
In the parable of the prodigal son, upon seeing his son, the father was full of compassion and embraced him (see Lk 15:20). Our heavenly Father is also compassionate toward those who, recognizing their sin, take steps toward repentance (see the entire Psalm 51, in Latin called Miserere). Our heavenly Father sent His Son, Jesus, “to seek and to save the lost” (Lk 19:10), that they might be called “children of God” (1Jn 3:1; Jn 1:12). The father of the prodigal son was filled with joy because his son, was dead, had come to life; he who had been lost was found (see Lk 15:32). Our heavenly Father rejoices over those who repent of their sins (Lk 15:7,10) He does not hold resentments or remember past offenses.
Saint Paul recognized his utter sinfulness and unworthiness to be called to the Lord’ service. He was filled with gratitude that the Lord had forgiven him and allowed him to experience Christ’ s love. Paul personally experienced the truth that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1Tim 1:15). Our heavenly Father had mercy on Paul in order to display Christ’s unending patience toward sinners (1Tim 1:16).
The Lord wants our gratitude for His love and forgiveness to move us to show mercy to others, as we have been shown mercy. Jesus promised that those who do so will be greatly rewarded and “will be sons of the Most High” (Lk 6:35).
Short prayer: Heavenly Father, we praise You for Your heart that is so full of tenderness and mercy. We cry out to You for Your lost daughters and sons. Call them home! May every person find a place at Your heavenly banquet. Amen.
Jakarta, September 9, 2010 [Memorial of St. Peter Claver (1580-1654), Jesuit Priest, Apostle of the Negroes]
A Christian Pilgrim