Scripture: Lectionary 133. Sunday, Sept.15 (24th C). Exodus 32:7-11,13-14. Psalm 51:3-4,12-13, 17.19. I Timothy 1:12-17. Luke 15:1-32:
There is a clear unity in all the readings for this Sunday. They all point to the foundation of reconciliation with God through the absolute gratuity of God’s loving and merciful forgiveness. This does not happen often in the Sunday readings where all three readings and the psalm response touch upon the same message. We see consecutively how God forgives the people of God, Israel; then David the King of Judah is forgiven; Paul is next in being totally turned around in his mind-set by God’s forgiveness of his false zeal and arrogance; finally we learn of the father of two sons who forgives their wayward way or bad attitude. We should get the message by this tour-de-force of forgiveness.
Even though Israel worshipped the golden calf representing idolatry, God forgives the people because of the intercessory prayers and intimate contact of Moses, God’s servant, with the forgiving Father of Israel. Next the Psalm of David pleading for God’s mercy and forgiveness gives us one of the best “acts of contrition” ever made and put into an inspired psalm called the “Miserere.” David had violated the sacredness of marriage by committing adultery with the wife of Uriah; David then has Uriah killed by putting him at the head of the line of battle. Yes, even the King of the nation is forgiven by the merciful love and kindness of God. Paul, realizes he is a zealous persecutor and an arrogant person who needs almost a lightning bolt to enter into a relationship with Jesus Christ, his Messiah and Lord, the Son of God. He becomes the apostle to the Gentiles, that is, to the nations known at that time. He is forgiven through the crucified Lord and Messiah.
Luke gives us three parables from Jesus and the third is the one that is most famous and moving for millions of people—the forgiveness of the prodigal son through the overwhelming love of his father. Nor is the stay at home brother who has a negative mindset forgotten to be forgiven for his sinister attitude toward his sibling and his father. He was the biblical “party pooper.” Henri Nowen’s book on this parable should be read to capture the full significance of this favorite parable of millions of women and men. Artists have helped us to feel the power of this parable by their masterpieces on this great act offorgiveness on the part of the Father.
The two smaller parables of this Sunday show that the shepherd searches out the straying sheep and carries it back to the fold; the woman searches and sweeps and searches again to find the lost silver coin and rejoices by making it into a party celebration for what was lost is found. All is about forgiveness.
We know the parable of the indulgent and forgiving father for both his sons—the youthful wanderer and dreamer who squanders everything with bad parties of drunkenness and debauchery. We all feel a bit sorry for the elder brother, but he needed forgiveness too for he was proud about his fidelity and inwardly envious of his younger brother and did not want to be known as his brother (“this son of yours) . The father quietly waits for the opportunity to tell his elder son that he is equally loved.
We should have no trouble this Sunday in learning and living out the message of forgiveness. Amen.
Maybe there are among us the saints who were neither the younger or the elder brother. Perhaps, this sentence from a talented writer will make sense to these brothers and sisters who have not sinned: The pilgrim who seeks God never travels alone.” (Colleen Carroll Campbell, author of “My Sisters the Saints”).
Copyright 2013 Fr. Bertrand Buby, S.M.