15 September 201924 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
24 Ordinary Time
24th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Cycle C
Luke 15:1-32 or 15:1-10

If God had a refrigerator, your magnet picture would be on it. If He had a wallet, your photo would be in it. Whenever you want to talk, He'll listen. Face it, friend, He's crazy about you." So wrote Max Lucado.

Do you recall the last recorded conversation Jesus had with anyone? Check Luke 23,43. Jesus was on His cross. One of the criminals with Him asked Him to remember him. Christ in His torment whispered, "Today you will be with me in paradise."

William Barclay has noted that the fifteenth chapter of Luke has been correctly called "the gospel in the gospel." It is, writes Barclay, "as if it contained the very distilled essence of the good news which Jesus came to tell." Clearly it proves to everyone's satisfaction the poet's assertion that "the love of God is broader than the measure of man's mind and the heart of the Eternal is most wonderfully kind."

One can understand why someone has called today's Gospel "the Parable of the Crazy Shepherd or the Crazy God."

We usually speak of the Teacher as a carpenter. However, today's parable indicates another dimension to Him. He appears to have taken His turn as a shepherd. He walked the hills around Nazareth either with His family's sheep or the flock owned in common by the village. He understood a shepherd's job definition.

Surely critics argued that day with the Teacher. "Only a crazy shepherd would leave a large flock and go in search of a stray sheep. Where would he find the energy after such a long day? How would he be able to work the next day? And how would he find a sheep in the night? What if a wolf or mountain lion should come upon the main body of sheep destroying some and dispersing all the others? How would the shepherd explain this situation to his employer? Quickly would he join the ranks of unemployed shepherds and begin looking for a second career."

I am certain that Jesus replied just as quickly, "I fully agree with you. All your objections are valid and genuine, my dear friends. No sensible shepherd would take such a walk looking for one foolish sheep. I suspect there is not one among you who would do so. However, God will do so with eagerness and without a microsecond's thought. And, having found it, He will host a large victory party for all and sundry. There will be wine, music, and much laughter. God's love for each of you, even the most sinful of your company, is vast and unqualified. Should you thereby be moved to call Him a crazy God, you will not upset Him. If anything, He will be amused."

Please do note the word "joy" in this Gospel. The Master uses it to describe God's reaction to a sinner's return to Him. Can it be that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit clasp hands and rapturously dance about in the heavens with the angels when we repent? This may strike some of us as bad form. But that really is our problem and not God's. Perhaps we should lighten up and get a fresh outlook on Christianity.

Marc Chagall paints a multi-colored heaven where there is much exuberance and happiness. His God smiles. It seems like a fun place to be. Our dour picture of the kingdom may explain our reluctance to delay our going there as long as possible. "How does it feel being 85?" "Fine," replied George Burns, "when you consider the alternative!"

Sidney Carter in his "Lord of the Dance" offers us a picture of God that we might want to reflect on. "I danced in the morning when the world was begun. I danced on the moon, the stars, and the sun. I came down from heaven and danced on earth...`Dance,' said He...`I lead you wherever you may be. I lead you all in the dance,' said He." Perhaps we should invest in patent leather dancing pumps, black tie, and tux, and have them buried with us.

Also shouldn't this Gospel cause us to think one more time about the lost sheep in our own circle? If God does not give up on the worst of us, if He would work even up to His crucifixion, why do we give up on them?
Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
24 Ordinary Time
Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time:
Lost Sheep, Lost Coin, Lost Son, Found People

Today's readings present a shepherd rejoicing over finding a lost sheep, a housewife rejoicing over finding a lost coin, and a father rejoicing over the return of his lost son.  The three parables are in answer to the Pharisees and Scribes complaints about Jesus, saying that he can't be the Messiah because he welcomes sinners and eats with them.  Eating with someone, for the ancients and for us, is a way of expressing friendship and love.  Jesus does not argue that he is eating with sinners, his argument is that he has called them to God and they have come. He is friends with them.  He loves them.  He is full of joy that they have come home to God.

Jesus is telling us that we should be happy that others have been forgiven. He is also telling us that we should join in the joy of the Lord because we have been forgiven.

First of all, unlike the Pharisees and scribes who saw themselves as holy and who considered everyday people as the hoard of sinners, the vast majority of us are well aware of our failures. Sometimes we think about something that we have done and feel devastated.  These thoughts besiege us: How could God forgive me?  Maybe I don't even belong here, with people whose commitment to the Lord has been far more solid than mine.  Perhaps at times we have an experience of God's love in our lives and then suffer from our past even more. 

This is all really the normal reaction of our commitment to the Lord.  The closer we come to Him, the more we are aware of the impact of the times that we did not choose Him.  Maybe the problem is that we are focusing on ourselves rather than on God.  According to the three parables, the Lord is delighted that we are once more in His Company.  Like the Forgiving Father, His focus is not on the past.  He doesn't carry a grudge.  His focus is on our present and our presence with him.  Our return to Him is a cause of his joy. 

It takes a tremendous amount of humility to recognize that God has forgiven us.  We are OK with Him.  This is his doing.  His Grace.  We cannot cause God's grace to happen in our lives.  We cannot cause God's forgiveness to take place.  But it does happen.  It does take place.  God is bigger than us, infinitely bigger.  God is greater than us, infinitely greater. So what is it that we have done that we think is so bad that God would not invite us to eat with Him?  Can anything we have done be beyond God's compassion and mercy? 

There is nothing We cannot because there is nothing He does not forgive.  His only reaction is pure joy.  But if we stay mired in the past, we will have no present and no future. The Lord is calling us into our joy and calling us to move beyond whatever is holding us back.  He forgives us.  We need to forgive ourselves.

The Scribes and Pharisees did not seem at all pleased that Jesus had forgiven known sinners.  We really have to be careful that we don't behave the same way.  Perhaps we come to Mass at times and see someone that we know has done some really bad stuff.  What is our reaction? 

According to the Gospel for today, our reaction should be: I am happy he or she is here, choosing Christ.  Another's past is not my concern.  I need to be happy for him or her.  I am here to eat with him or her.  I have had people say to me, "Father, that person you were joking with has really done some horrible things."  Oh, so I should avoid him or her and only spend time with the very best of people?  That does not sound like the instruction the Gospel for today is presenting.  Maybe no one here would go to that extreme, but perhaps there are times that the thought comes flashing across our minds: "What is that lowlife doing here?"  That is a terrible.  That person is here for the same reasons that we are here: compassion, forgiveness, and love. The Lord feels bad for what we have done to ourselves.  And He feels bad for what that person did to himself or herself.  The Lord forgives us.  The Lord forgives Him or her.  The Lord wants us to live in His Love.  The Lord wants that person to live in His love. 

In the second reading, from Paul's First Letter to Timothy, Paul mentions an early Christian saying, "Christ came into the world to save sinners.  Of these I am the foremost. But for that very reason I was mercifully treated, so that in me Christ might display all His Patience as an example for those who would come to believe in Him."  Jesus came into the world to forgive sinners.  And I am one of them.  And, with the exception of the angels among us, so are you.

Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
24 Ordinary Time
Three Parables of Redemption
(September 15, 2019)

Bottom line: Once found we respond with celebration and worship.

Today Jesus gives three parables of redemption: the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son. Each shows a different aspect of salvation.

Let's begin with the lost coin. A coin, once lost, has no power to return on its own. The woman must search until she finds it. This parable shows God's sovereignty. If He does not seek us, we remain lost forever. We cannot save ourselves. We depend on God's initiative.

Our very worth depends on God. In Peru I once mixed a U.S. quarter with my Peruvian coins. Attempting to buy some bananas, I pulled out the quarter. The boy looked at it and said, "This isn't money". The coin had no value on its own. Just so, you and I have the value gives us. He formed us in our mother's womb with a purpose - a value, a purpose no other person can fulfill. Only you. You have such worth in God's eyes that even though you seem small God rejoices over you.

Something similar happens with the lost sheep. A sheep, unlike a coin, has some agency. If it gets lost it can bleat. Bishop Robert Barron tells about spending a night in a rural area (I believe, the Holy Land). Somewhere in the distance he could hear a sheep bleating. Apparently separated the flock, all night it cried out its distress.

The lost sheep represents so many in our society. They have become separated, alienated. They show their distress in various ways, maybe with drugs or outbursts of anger. Feeling themselves trapped, they need a shepherd.

In our parish we have this mission: Lift up Jesus. Love one another. Make disciples. We are striving to form disciple makers, shepherds. Jesus said the harvest is great but laborers are few. Pray to the Lord of the Harvest to send out workers to gather the harvest. Aren't there lost sheep in our families? You may not be the one to reach them. Pray that God will send the right shepherd to bring them back.

From the lost sheep we go to the lost son. He shows the fullest dimensions of salvation. While in some ways we are like a lost coin or sheep, we most resemble the young man who has turned from his father. He takes his inheritance and dissipates it, thus falling into misery.

Today we live in the best of times and the worst of times. Never have people enjoyed such abundance and opportunities, especially in our country. At the same time never have people been so isolated, so alienated, so lonely, so full of anxiety.

You and I have a choice. Like the older son we can play the victim, blame the other person, fill ourselves with resentment and self-justification. Or like the younger son we can accept responsibility. As my dad used to say, "you have no one to blame but yourself." or as the younger son admits, "Father I have sinned against heaven and against you."

Confession doesn't have to be elaborate - either at the beginning of Mass or in the sacrament of Reconciliation. Heck, in the parable the father actually cuts his son short and orders a celebration.

So we have three parables of redemption: the lost coin, the lost sheep and the lost son. I will now sum up their main points:
--The lost coin shows God's sovereignty, that our worth comes from him.
--The lost sheep our often limited agency, our need for a shepherd.
--The lost son depicts alienation from God and others. We have choice - resentment or responsibility? Accepting responsibility involves confession.

The bottom line is that once found we respond with celebration and worship. Worship come from worth + ship. It means to acknowledge worth which we do in the greatest way by celebrating the Eucharist, Mass. After all, "we must celebrate and rejoice because you brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found."

Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe, Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
24 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
24 Ordinary Time
Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
We are surely all extremely familiar with the story of the Prodigal Son. It is unique to the Gospel of Luke and is a wonderful lesson in forgiveness. It has been the Gospel chosen for countless services of reconciliation and maybe some of us are so familiar with it that we have forgotten just what a wonderful story it is.

One thing to observe is how male a story it is. There is no mention of the boy's mother or of any other women except for the loose women that the Prodigal Son is accused of consorting with.

When Rembrandt came to painting his famous picture of the Prodigal Son he shows the son on his knees before his father and we see the father with his hands on his son's shoulders. However, if you look carefully at the hands Rembrandt has painted you will see that one is the hand of a woman, the other of a man.

This shows us that Rembrandt understood very well that this story was just as much about women as about men. He understood that forgiveness was just as much an attribute of mothers as of fathers.

For over ten years I was chaplain of a women's prison and I can assure you that there are just as many prodigal daughters as prodigal sons. The gender doesn't matter, the story is about people. It is about those people who go off seeking their own self-indulgence but it is just as much about the people who long for them to return and who are ready to forgive them.

I say it is about people waiting to forgive but remember that it is a parable. And as a parable it is principally about God who is there with his outstretched hands waiting to forgive us and to welcome us back.

There are some other interesting points. One is that the Prodigal Son ends up caring for pigs and even longing to eat their food. This would have horrified the Jewish listeners to the story. You could not think of a better way of demonstrating how far this young man had fallen than to say that he ended up looking after pigs, which were according to them the most unclean animal of all.

The role of the father is very important since he represents God himself. It says in the text that, 'When he was a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with pity.' One can only imagine that his father was not at this vantage point by accident, he was probably out there most days looking to see if his son was returning. This underlines the yearning that the father has for the return of his son. And it also underlines the yearning God has for us to return to him despite our sinning against his laws.

It is worth noting that, although the father waited and watched longingly for the return of his son, he does not go looking for him. No, the father lets his son come home under his own steam and as a result of his own volition. He doesn't go searching for him.

This implies a lot of trust on the father's part; trust that the son would be able to keep himself safe and trust that he would eventually see the error of his ways and decide to return home. By giving him this freedom, the father ensures that the son returns to him for the right reasons and through his own individual choice.

God deals with us in exactly the same way. He gives us the gift of free will and he does not constantly chase after us. He leaves us free to come to our senses in our own time and in our own way.

The other important character in the story is, of course, the elder son. When he comes home from the fields to find everyone rejoicing at the return of the Prodigal he is indignant. He thinks that it is his loyalty and his work on the farm that should be rewarded rather than the fecklessness of his younger brother.

This older brother thinks in terms of performance and reward. He believes that good behaviour should be rewarded and bad behaviour should be punished. But this is not the way his father thinks and, more importantly for us, this is not the way God thinks.

As we have often seen God is more interested in attitude rather than our behaviour. One, of course, precedes the other. Our attitude leads to our behaviour. The attitude we adopt ends up with us performing specific actions whether they be good or bad.

What we need to do in life is to constantly check our attitude. The trick is to look inwards not outwards. The constant temptation is to look at what other people do and to overlook our own actions. The only remedy for this is to get into the habit of checking on our own attitudes, our own particular outlook on life. If we can get that right then everything else will fall into place.

Here in this wonderful parable we easily see that the Prodigal Son's attitude has completely changed. Adversity has brought him to his senses and he has moved away from the attitudes of anger and frustration and selfishness towards those of repentance and humility and love.

On the other hand, the elder brother seems stuck with his attitudes of annoyance and jealousy. He does not notice the changes which have taken place in the heart of his younger brother; he does not recognise that he has transformed; he does not see that his brother has come to his senses and now seeks forgiveness.

This is one of the problems when we are hard of heart; we find it difficult to allow other people to change. We are stuck in our own opinions and, because we refuse to change, we cannot allow anyone else to change.

The father's reaction to the elder brother is interesting and equally loving. He says to him, 'You are always with me and all I have is yours.' What great tenderness he shows him and at the same time how touching it is that he overlooks his elder son's anger towards his younger brother. We don't get the elder brother's response but we hope that he realises that his father loves him deeply and that he is then reconciled with his brother.

Both sons receive forgiveness. Both sons experience the father's love. Both are headed towards reconciliation. There is a lot to learn from each character in this story. From the father we learn to forgive, from the son we learn to repent, from the elder brother we learn to soften our hearts. 
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