September 15th - 2019
The 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time
mercy on me, O God, in your goodness;
in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense…
A clean heart create for me, O God, and a steadfast spirit renew within me.
My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit.”
(from Ps 51)
“Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Of these I am the foremost.
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.”
(from 1 Tm 1:12-17)
“In just the same way, I tell you, there will be
among the angels of God over one sinner who
repents.”Top of Form
Pondering the Word…
Two themes run through the readings this week: the temptation to sin that money
and power present to us; and, God’s unending mercy. These themes track each
other throughout all of Biblical history, and yet so often, the one that gets
the most focus is the first: our propensity towards sin.
When I meet people for spiritual companioning, I rarely hear about the joy God’s
forgiveness has brought to their lives. I mostly hear from people who feel they
are unforgiveable, unredeemable. I can relate. When Jesus says there is
rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents, I think of the numerous times
in my life I have been “the party excuse for the month!” I remember my own
spiritual director pointing out this passage from Paul’s first letter to
Timothy: “Listen, if I am redeemable, anyone can be redeemed!"
I know how easy it is to get wrapped up in my unworthiness, but I also know the
tendency towards self-focus is, in itself, the temptation to power, the false
belief that I somehow control God’s love. By deeming myself unredeemable, I deny
the covenant God made with his people, brought to completion in the birth,
death, and resurrection of his Son. (Of course, it took me time to get over that
sin of pride as well!)
If you struggle with doubt at your worthiness in the eyes of God, take heart.
None of us are worthy—even the most saintly among us—none of us are worthy. All
God asks is that we recognize our reliance on him through the sacrifice of a
contrite spirit. Let’s keep our focus on the unending, unchanging mercy God
offers us every moment of every day, and how that mercy can help to create in us
a clean heart and steadfast spirit.
Living the Word…
I pray for every person reading this who is caught in the web of sin or trapped
by the sins of the past. Don’t despair. Seek healing with a caring confessor,
spiritual companion, or pastoral counselor. No, the sins do not magically
disappear, but they can be transformed into the most amazing source of joy in
your life! Trust me.
“Beloved: I ask that supplications, prayers, petitions, and thanksgivings be
offered for everyone, for kings and for all in authority, that we may lead a
quiet and tranquil life….
It is my wish that in every place men should pray, lifting up holy hands,
without anger or argument.”
(1 Tm 2:1-8)
Do I pray for world leaders, especially those in my own country? We often say
prayers for government and church leaders at Mass, but as I sit here typing
away, I do not see one of their names on the prayer wall in front of me. Oh, but
I can sure get angry and into arguments about them! Paul’s advice is wise. I
should pray for those who lead us, but I also must remember to do what I can to
bring about quiet and tranquility in the lives of people I encounter. “Let
there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.”
"I will walk with blameless heart within my house…Whoever slanders his neighbor
in secret, him will I destroy.
The man of haughty eyes and puffed up heart I will not endure. My eyes are upon
the faithful of the land that they may dwell with me. He who walks in the way of
integrity shall be in my service.”
calls to mind the people for whom Jesus has little patience or sympathy:
hypocrites. Those who present themselves as honorable in public but who are
greedy, lascivious, slanderous, or haughty in the privacy of their own homes.
People who look down on others and have inflated egos—these he will not endure.
Those who are faithful, who have integrity—these are the ones who will dwell in
the house of the Lord. It is easy for me to point at many of those in power as
being the ones who will be judged harshly, and indeed, they may well be. But let
me not forget to turn the mirror on myself. Is the person people see when they
encounter me the same person I am when I’m alone with my thoughts?
“… he will forever be mindful of his covenant.”
God is not like us. God does not forget his promises, does not turn away from
us, no matter how many times we fail to keep our commitment and turn away from
him. God will forever be mindful of his covenant. What an incredible
thing! Let us not be afraid to return again and again to the source of all
comfort and joy!
“Do not neglect the gift you have…Attend to yourself and
to your teaching; persevere in both tasks, for by doing so you will save both
yourself and those who listen to you.”
(1 Tm 4:12-16)
important message for those involved in service to God’s people (and, BTW,
that’s supposed to mean all of us)! How often do we see the irony of the medical
professional so busy that they fail to take care of their health; or, of the
financial planner who does not have their own financial plan? If you are
involved in any caring profession: teachers, doctors, nurses, police, EMTs, and
firefighters; those who work in social services, with the disabled, counselors,
and on social justice causes; those who care for the sick and dying; ministers
and parents: Attend to yourself and let God attend to you. You cannot give what
you do not have.
"Those who want to be rich are falling into temptation…For the love of money
is the root of all evils, and some people in their desire for it have strayed
from the faith.”
(1 Tm 6:2c-12)
You know, money can do amazing things. It can rebuild lives shattered by natural
disasters. It can eradicate diseases. While having enough of it to afford a
decent life for one’s family can’t buy happiness, it can sure help to reduce
stress and add to the quality of life. Money in and of itself is not a bad
thing. But our relationship to money and to what it can buy can cause even the
most level-headed of people to lose sight of what’s really important. Let’s pay
attention to the words of Psalm 49 we hear today:
trust in their wealth; the abundance of their riches is their boast. Yet in no
way can a man redeem himself, or pay his own ransom to God; though in his
lifetime he counted himself blessed, he shall join the circle of his forebears
who shall never more see light.”
and learn the meaning of the words, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ I did not
come to call the righteous but sinners.”
Remember the line from the beginning of the Hebrew Scriptures? God created us in
his own image. He created us to be merciful, compassionate, patient as God is
with us. Our God is not like other gods that demand elaborate sacrifices. Just
that contrite heart we talked about on Sunday, and the willingness to forgive as
God forgives us, sinners that we are.
two kinds of people: the righteous who believe themselves sinners; and, the
rest, who believe themselves righteous.”(Blaise
Ireland has a passion for working with parents and anyone who struggles to
maintain a sense of God’s love and peace amid the day-to-day challenges of life.
She has a master’s degree in Spiritual and Pastoral Care from the Pastoral
Counseling department at Loyola, Maryland, with a focus on developmental
psychology and spiritual guidance. Rooted in Ignatian spirituality, she is
a writer, retreat and workshop leader, and presenter on topics such as pastoral
parenting, “letting go,” and finding the spiritual in the midst of everyday
life. She lives in Ellicott City, Maryland with her husband, Mark and children,
David and Maggie.
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