God, who is merciful, seeks out and welcomes the lost

SEPTEMBER 15, 2019 TWENTY-FOURTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (Lec. 132) 

1) Exodus 32:7-11, 13-14

2) 1 Timothy 1:12-17

3) Luke 15:1-32 or 15:1-10 Gospel related: CCC 545, 589, 1423, 1439, 1468, 1700, 2795, 2839

Today’s Gospel, and particularly the parable of the prodigal son, reminds us of the merciful love that God the Father has for all of us, his children. Jesus depicts so poignantly the love found in the character of the father who runs out to greet his wayward son before he is even home – and who celebrates his son’s safe return with the feast of a fatted calf.

We might wonder how a father can be so quickly and completely forgiving of a son who prematurely took a share of the father’s wealth (to which he was not even entitled, because he was not the older son and heir), abandoned the family, and wasted the hard-earned money on immoral and reckless acts. But Jesus reminds us, as he did the Pharisees and scribes at the beginning of the Gospel, that God the Father himself is merciful, for Jesus was sent to encourage sinners to turn away from their sins and toward God.

These readings challenge us on many levels. If we are like the younger, prodigal son, it might be hard to imagine that God could forgive us for the wrongs we might have done, for the times that we turned away from God. But in the second reading, Paul reminds Timothy that God not only forgave him for his persecution of the Church, he called Paul to great glory as an Apostle. Paul describes himself as the foremost of sinners, who 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. Through his mercy for this most zealous persecutor of the early Christians, Jesus gave Paul the grace to become one of his greatest advocates and one of the shining stars of the Church. If any of us feel that we have committed some wrong that can’t be forgiven – or have strayed so long that we can’t be welcomed back – we can take courage and comfort from these readings.

But, just as the readings encourage us to accept the mercy of God, they also challenge us to extend God’s mercy to others. For we also know that the measure we give to others is what we shall receive. We are forgiven, as we forgive. And we have this good news to share with anyone who needs to hear it: come home! So let us then accept God’s mercy, extend it to others and rejoice, as the Father commands us, when those who are lost return home.