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Contents: Volume 2 - 24th Sunday - C
September 11, 2022

 

  The

24th

SUNDAY

 (C)

1. -- Lanie LeBlanc OP

2. -- Brian Gleeson, CP

3. -- Dennis Keller

4. --

5. -- (Your reflection can be here!)

 

 

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Sun. 24 C 2022

Our readings this Sunday give us great insight into the wonderful God who loves us... no matter what. Our first reading from the Book of Exodus tells us that God is One who provides us with many chances to do the right thing. The Gospel reading according to Luke describes to what great lengths God will go to find us, help us, and welcome us when we turn back on the right path.

These are familiar readings. What really caught my attention though was St. Paul's Letter to Timothy. Although his previous actions were due to ignorance , he technically was not sinful in God's eyes because Paul lacked full knowledge and unbelief. Nonetheless, Paul humbly bares his soul, repents, and becomes a champion of the faith. He does so without shame and with great honesty because of the "merciful treatment" he received.

So then, what about us? Some questions to ask ourselves:

1. We will not change God's mind or actions because we are behaving well, but will we behave well in gratitude for God's mercy and lead others back to God?

2. We are not ignorant of the commands of our faith as Paul, but what is it that causes us to wander and get so tangled up in life that we need to be rescued by God?

3. Why do our lives become so hidden or we become so lost that God has to continually sweep the universe to find us and remind us of what better to do?

4. What is so compelling that we must follow it willfully, almost to our own destruction, before we come to our senses and return to God-like ways?

5. Are we so hard-hearted, arrogant, jealous, or holier -than -thou that we can not embrace God's mercy for another?

6. What DO we need to do to respond more positively to our wonderful and merciful God?

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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THE GOD OF THE LOST: 24TH SUNDAY C

Exodus 32:7-11, 13-14; 1 Timothy 1:12-17; Luke 15:1-32

 

All through his days on earth, Jesus shows pastoral care for all sorts of people. But he has a special affection for poor people. He has special loving care even for extortionists and prostitutes. His opponents sneer: 'This man welcomes sinners and eats with them' (Lk 15:2).

 

The warmth and generosity of his human caring and welcome are signs of the warmth and generosity of God's warmth and welcome. Especially by sharing meals with them, Jesus is saying that in the eyes of God they are not ‘rejects’, ‘outcasts‘, losers’, and 'no-hopers'. On the contrary, God wants to put them back together again. So, in and through Jesus, those labelled the ‘lost’ (Luke 15), come to meet the God of the lost. It is for their sake and in their defence, that Jesus speaks his famous parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son.

 

The story of the lost son has been called the greatest short story ever told. It is not really the parable of a prodigal, i.e., of a spendthrift, as it is usually called, but the parable of an incredibly generous father of two sons (see v.11), who in different ways have both lost their way in life.

 

For Jesus, any persons who have strayed from God are not truly themselves. Amid his failures and mistakes the lost son comes to understand that he will be happy again only in the company and home of his father. Meanwhile, his father is waiting for him to return, and as soon as he catches a glimpse of him he runs along the road to meet him and hug him (v.20).

 

When they reach the house, the father cuts short the son’s prepared speech. There is no reprimand, not even a small dose of 'I told you so ...' There is no pay-back, no penance, no punishment, and no recriminations. Instead, the father is so glad to have his son back with him again that he gives him the robe of honour, the ring of authority, and the sandals of a son. He just doesn’t take the boy back. He welcomes him home with affection. All is forgiven.

 

The Pharisees, to whom Jesus was telling this story, would have been shocked to the core at the way Jesus was keeping company with people who were not only outsiders but sinners, contact with whom would bring defilement. In a sadistic way, they were looking forward to the destruction of those whom they so easily and so self-righteously labelled ‘sinners’

 

The parable tells us a great deal about Jesus himself.  His own way of acting is the starting point of the story. He is explaining why he 'welcomes sinners and eats with them' (v.2). They are the lost ones, the ones he is bringing home to God.

 

At the sound of music and dancing the eldest son comes in from the fields. His father goes out to him and pleads with him to come to the party (v.38). This eldest son believes he has done everything 'right', and has spent his whole life slaving away on the family farm. His attitude to his wayward brother is one of utter contempt. He even refers to the prodigal as 'your son', not ‘my brother'. His anger that his wayward brother has been fully welcomed back into the family with a big party is understandable but unacceptable. For one thing, as the eldest son, he was due to inherit double the amount of property his father gave the youngest.

 

In the details of his story, Jesus is saying that our God is not a mean book-keeping God at all, but a warm, gracious, and generous Father who never stops loving simply because he never stops wanting to save. Jesus is reminding us that while justice is good, it is good only up to a point. One step further and it becomes cold and even out of control. Do those people among us, if there are any, who are hell-bent on strict justice for offenders want them to change their ways? Don’t they somehow feel that offenders are getting away with their offences and escaping their just desserts? Perhaps what they really want for those who have done wrong is to suffer all possible consequences of their wrong-doing, and forever.

 

 As soon as we hear the words, ‘A father had two sons’, we begin to be moved by this image of God as a tender, loving, and forgiving father, wanting nothing but the best for us. God’s care and concern for every single one of us are so great and so personal that God cannot bear the thought of losing even one of us. No matter how often we may turn our backs on God and go away to do our own thing, God, like the father in the story, waits patiently for us to come to our senses and return home. The moment that we begin to wake up to ourselves and admit that our selfishness has brought us only frustration, misery, and guilt, like the father in the story, God starts searching for us. The moment God catches sight of us, he comes running to embrace us and take us back. There he treats us not as our mistakes and sins deserve, but with tenderness and compassion. In the Eucharist, he even throws a party and lavishes ‘welcome home’ gifts upon us – Christ himself in his body and blood.

 

We might wonder what happened to the two sons in the end. The parable does not say. What it does tell us is where can find God. God is to be found in every place and in every situation where we sense God saying: ‘Come back to me with all your heart’. One special place for finding our God of mercy and compassion is at our Sunday Eucharist. The Eucharistic meal is not a nice gathering of the pure, the respectable, the saved, and the honest. It is rather a sacrificial meal of reconciliation, repentance, and forgiveness for imperfect and struggling Christians like you and me. By celebrating the presence of Jesus, the 'friend of sinners', by hearing his word and receiving him in Holy Communion, we are cleansed, purified, forgiven, and strengthened. So, our communion with him is not a reward for being good.  It is a means of becoming good because it is a sign and source of mercy and healing from God.

 

In providing this reading today, our Church invites us to look again at how we think of God. Is God for us the loving and merciful father waiting for us to come home that Jesus told us about? Or do we think of God as some kind of eye in the sky, or some kind of heavenly accountant, ready to pounce on us for even our slightest and smallest mistakes? God is easier in judging than we are, and is ready and willing to forgive the faults, mistakes, and sins of others, even when we are not. No wonder, then, that St Paul of the Cross, Founder of the Passionists, as an old man looking back on his life, said this: ‘If I had my life over again, I would go through this world, preaching nothing but the mercy of God!’

 

bgleesoncp@gmail.com

 

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Transmittal

Here’s that ever-popular prodigal son story. Makes us all feel better about ourselves, that there is a chance God will be looking up the road for us coming home after we’ve wasted all our resources and messed up in royal fashion.

Sorry – it’s not really about me – well in a way but convoluted. It’s about Dad – this Dad who just can’t wait for us to come home – no recrimination, no screaming, no “I told you so” stuff. Just “am I glad to see you, let’s eat and drink and have some fun.”

It’s more about God than it is about us. God is no softie. He sees beyond our errors, our sinfulness and just goes on loving us. What an example for us parents. Do we have it within ourselves to be like God when we wreck the car, drop out of college, end up fathering or mothering an unexpected child of our own? What about the evil that we allow in our hearts that changes our personality? What about that problem in the family where we don’t talk to each other anymore. What about the hatred we have for competition. What about the distrust we have for persons of different skin color, culture, language, religion? We want God to overlook those things – how about us trying to behave like God without the judging capacity that it seems God doesn’t roll out whenever it looks like God should?

It’s about God this week-end – it allows us hope and possibility.

Dennis

Twenty Fourth Sunday of Ordered Time - September 11, 2022

Exodus 22:7-11 & 13-14; Responsorial Psalm 51; 1st Timothy 1:12-17; Gospel Acclamation 2nd Corinthians 5:19; Luke 15:1-32

I’ve never been a great fan of the story of the Prodigal Son. There is something about it that seems way to gracious and too kind to this rebellious youth too big for his breeches. And then, as I begrudgingly read a commentary that changed the focus from the rebel and from the disgruntled holier-than-thou older brother, I came to understand the story differently. What was Jesus telling this crowd made up of tax-collectors and public sinners. What about those saintly Pharisees complaining Jesus was giving all his attention to those bad guys in the room. What about us, they complained: we follow the law and study the law, and we are careful to make no mistakes applying it. We are really good people, don’t you see?

Who is Jesus talking teaching with this parable? In real life who are the characters this story is about? Yeah, the prodigal son is the tax-collectors and the public sinners, The disgruntled brother is a jab at us Pharisees. Let’s turn the tables a bit. Jesus isn’t talking about the sinners in the room. All three groups – tax-collectors, public sinners, and holier-than-thou Pharisees are like either the runaway or the dutiful but feelings-hurt older brother. But this is not about them. This is not about conversion, not about fessing up to failings. Nope, this is not about them. This is about the Dad. This is about the one who loves all his children. He spends his days glancing up from his work, looking up the road with hope in his heart that the missing son will come home. He watches out over the fields at the elder son, the one who will inherit it all, to see if he is contented in his work. Perhaps that older kid is just waiting for the old man to kick off so he can stay at home with wine, women, and song. And Dad knows it.

Even so, this parable is about the Dad. As if to prove this let’s review the reading from Exodus. The people have grown tired of waiting for Moses to return from his conference with God. Moses was happy in that presence and would certainly liked to have put up a tent for himself and stay where he was shrouded in that cloud of God’s presence. But God sends him back to reality, to the work for which he was chosen. “You’d better go down to the people you brought out of Egypt, away from the enslavement of Pharaoh. They’ve gotten out of hand. They’re setting up the golden calf pagans use as a symbol of a beast holding the saddle for Baal – that god of the Canaanites. It’s that god whose liturgy promotes orgies directed to fertility of the soil and humans, sort of a sacred prostitution. They’re letting go down there and I’m about to fry them in a blast of Divine fire.” Moses reminds God of his commitment to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God relents. But why does God relent? Moses’ argument isn’t all that strong. Just because God favored those Hebrews – those people from across the river – doesn’t mean God would continue doing so. Peoples and tribes are a dime a dozen. Why God changing God’s mind?

Consider the second reading. Paul writes his protégé Timothy explaining himself. Just as Moses was not a good man – he was a murderer in Egypt and a shepherd before he was called by God: so also, Paul claims he was a blasphemer, one who persecuted the innocent, planning murders, and he was arrogant. Arrogance – there’s a sin that hardens hearts and clouds minds. The arrogant one is unable to hear, is unable to understand, is unable to see the common good, and is unavailable to God’s whisperings. Paul excuses himself by saying he acted out of ignorance. He lays claim to the power that changed him as the grace of the Lord.

Grace! If ever there were a code word, a word that we bow to and revere but don’t have a clear idea of what it is, Grace is such a word. Right along with words like “salvation,” “redemption,” and “reconciliation.” Code words become shrouded in misty clouds hiding meaning, thus rendering them ineffective. Do we know grace? Have we experienced grace? What does it do to us, for us, with us? Grace. Yes, we know it as sanctifying and actual. Do we sense, do we experience grace?

That’s the point of these three readings this Sunday. Have we had an apology received by a person we injured who accepted that apology with grace? Oops. Defining a word by that word! Grace in that sense carries the feeling of peace, of acceptance, of a gentleness by the recipient. Okay, this is one sense. The grace in this Sunday’s readings is more than that. Look at the Dad in the prodigal story. There is no claim by either brother that the father must accept. The apology of the youngest is laced with desperation, an understood need for survival. The older brother doesn’t like the situation and won’t accept the father’s explanation. But in either case, it is the Dad who offers grace, an energy that brings peace, brings gentleness, sooths the troubled brow, and welcomes home.

In these three readings we have a starting point to review the trajectory of our living. When have we been treated with grace? We shouldn’t be looking for a vision like Stephen’s as he was being stoned. We shouldn’t be expecting to be struck to the ground like Saul before he became Paul. We shouldn’t be a Peter whose triple apology after the resurrection gave him the grace to preach, to teach, to administer, and to die on an upside down cross. Grace is that without which we flop around like a fish out of water. When we experience it, human life becomes purposeful and lacking in violence. Life suddenly changes into more than an endless search for meaning and purpose according to the world.

What seems to be lacking – and I’ve experienced that lacking as I believe everyone does if they’re alive – is that what satisfies our hungry person is finding in daily living signposts that lead us to a greater depth than is apparent on the surface. To become fixated with the signposts will halt our progress to our ultimate goal, that is to return home to Dad. The choice of the word “person” to define us rather than “souls” is by choice. Calling me “person” instead of the more common “soul” is intentional. The notion of soul brings to mind a dualistic definition of humanity. We are human and that, according to Aquinas, means we are spirits who are incarnate; that is spirits whose bodies are essential to know experience, to learn, to foster relationships. The body is not evil. Remember our goal in living, in dying, and in death is a new resurrected body no longer submissive to illness, accident, tears, or death anymore. The world is not evil until we decide that’s all there is. The way of the world is how we experience. If we stop there, we make the things of the world our gods – like the fertility rites worshipped in the first reading. There is an energy available to us that is grace. Perhaps put in another way, it is the presence of God to each as Father, Mother, Brother, Sister. The way of the world is the pathway by which we may arrive at grace.

The readings this Sunday are an opportunity to focus our senses and hearts to seek within our day-to-day experiences God’s presence offered. That focus sees Dad looking up the road for the familiar gait and stance of an errant son/daughter. God longs for us to come to Them, to build a strong relationship with them. Dad longs to see her/his face and embrace with love, forgiveness, and reconciliation as one who loves intensely. All good words these – just in need of review in the light of our experiences. Slopping the hogs, working in the field, fishing, caring for family and loved ones – all these experiences are opportunities for grace so long as we are not blasphemers, persecutors, or pridefully arrogant.

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Volume 2 is for you. Your thoughts, reflections, and insights on the next Sundays readings can influence the preaching you hear. Send them to preacherexchange@att.net.  Deadline is Wednesday Noon. Include your Name, and Email Address.

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