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Pastor's Letter 20220911 - 11 September 2022 - This Man Welcomes Sinners

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September 11th, 2022

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time

A Message from Father Michael


Today’s Theme:  “This Man Welcomes Sinners”

Reflections on Today’s Scripture

Linking all three of today’s Readings is the theme of repentance.  Our First (Exodus 32:11-14,) is addressed to the people of Israel, after they abandoned their faith.  The Second (1 Timothy 1:12-17,) presents Paul’s rejoicing over the fact of his conversion, and offering his experience as an example for other sinners.  Today’s Gospel (Luke 15:1-31,) is a veritable celebration for sinners, as it dramatizes in triple parables the merciful love of God that seeks out the sinner who repents and rejoices at their homecoming.


In spite of having been rescued from slavery in Egypt, the Hebrews abandoned their faith, even before Moses returned from the mountain with the Ten Commandments.  The story of the “golden calf” occupies three chapters of Exodus, placed in the middle of the “divine instructions” from Sinai.  It illustrates how fickle is the human character, and God’s fidelity, forever reaching out to redeem and forgive human infidelity.  God always offers mankind an opportunity to renew their relationship with their Creator.  


Paul experienced a similar experience to that of the Chosen People (above,) in his conversion event on the way to Damascus—dramatically demonstrating the gratuitous quality of God’s forgiving love.  His letters to Timothy formulate directives and guidelines for the late first or early send century Church. Instructions included: How to maintain the deposit of the faith, intact; to beware of heresies; to appoint qualified leaders; and heed the principles governing public worship/liturgy.  The Good News of Christianity is given as sound teaching, and the only sure defense against every kind of sin for the sinner.


The Lucan parable of the Prodigal Son is accompanied today by two others—the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin—to make the evangelist’s message even more poignant.  Jesus confronted the religious leaders of His day with His words and works, and the shocking and “unseemly” reality that God not only loves sinners; indeed, He seeks after them and welcomes them with joy!  In so doing, this trio of parables was Jesus’ answer to their criticism that those seemingly lost and retrievable things—wayward son; lost sheep; lost coin—refer to people who are most sought after for the Kingdom…. 


The Value of the Individual

We are sometimes shocked by the seeming indifference displayed by multinational companies who cut their workforces during economic downturns, or when outsourcing jobs to foreign shores, without any obvious concern for the individuals affected.

Like the parable of the Prodigal Son, Jesus’ stories of the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin also show the value of the individual. To a shepherd, each sheep is important and precious, both from an economic point of view, and because they  have become his “companions” during the long hours spent with them.  A single coin to any of us, today, might seem a frivolous pursuit, but in the first century, a drachma was equivalent to a day’s wages, and assumes sometimes amplified value when lost.  

Of course, Jesus wasn’t really talking about sheep or drachmas.  He was talking about people—sinners, to be precise.  His frequent association with them scandalized* the Pharisees of His day, even more so, in that He accepted them before they repented of their sins!  He wasn’t condoning their sinful lives by this, but rather, trying to show them a better way to live.  But He couldn’t do that without being among them, and having sympathy for them.  People are never “improved” by being “shunned,” and Jesus acted as He did to reveal the mercy of God towards them.  

* In the Old Law, it was thought that God loved the righteous and hated the sinner.  

The Lost are more Precious

Anything we lose assumes an exaggerated value—for the moment.  If we lose a key, for example, it suddenly becomes more important—until it is found—than the sum-total of everything we possess.  That’s because we never know the real value of something, until it’s gone.  

There’s a story told about a young photographer who regularly submitted his work to a well-known expert for his consideration.  The pictures were then sorted into two groups, according to his criteria, along with his commentary.  Those thought to have merit, and those he would discard as having little worth.  

Every year the young photographer would repeat his submissions, and the expert saw that among them was always one particular picture of a landscape, that was usually rejected.  When he asked about the photo, the young artist said, “It’s important to me, because I had to climb a mountain to shoot it!”  

Something becomes more precious to us in direct proportion to what value we perceive from it…but it can also have worth because of what had to be “sacrificed” to obtain it.  

Similarly, the shepherd saw value in the lost sheep, because of all the effort he had to expend to protect it, and the rest of the herd, as they grazed, for weeks at a time.  

Most people are skeptical of associating with someone who has treated them unfairly, or badly, in some way.  Even our closest relatives can be considered “outcast,” should they “cross the line” with us often enough.  Our patience with people who wrong us is usually rather fleeting, especially if it is continuously tried.  

Conversely, we hear stories about loving parents who continually allow a recalcitrant child to “come back” into their good graces, even after multiple indiscretions.  From a detached perspective, we might think them “naïve,” or “gullible” for being so forgiving.  But if we truly have “perfect love” someone, then we should “forgive all things,” as Paul wrote (1 Corinthians 13,) regardless of their transgressions, shouldn’t we?  

In our efforts to conceive of the character of God, we have bestowed upon Him true perfection.  If we truly believe that, then it will be understood how Jesus could have promised continual forgiveness for sin to those who repent.  This does not mitigate our belief that He is a “just God,” however.  It does demand that we have true repentance for our sins, in order to receive His forgiveness!

Thus, the responsibility for atonement for sins is put squarely upon the sinner.  Without it, we can be confident that true repentance has not occurred—and forgiveness not granted.  

The seemingly, undying hope that may be exhibited by our example of the loving parents, above, might not be the same as God’s, but it comes close, in human terms, at least.  

We hear of people offering “tough love” to their miscreant charges.  In my view, this is akin to what God will present to a repentant sinner.  Should someone profess their guilt, and turn around and repeat the offense, repeatedly, we can assume there was no true repentance in the first place.  In our youth, when first learning about the sacrament of Penance (now,called Reconciliation,) we were taught we must not only confess our sins, but pledge to “sin no more,” as a condition for receipt of absolution.  Without that, our confession becomes merely “lip service,” and we should not expect to receive forgiveness from our merely admitting guilt (no matter how much “penance” may have been assigned by the priest.)  

When people become lost, morally and spiritually, they are like boats, adrift without an anchor.  They may be addicted to alcohol or drugs; unable to “settle down,” or hold a job or finish a course of study; incapable of maintaining stable personal relationships—all such people could be said to be “lost.”  What is most frustrating, is they may not be very far away from us.  They have become lost in our midst, perhaps even within the bosom of a loving family.  

But if someone takes the time to show active concern for those who are lost, it may be possible for them to become “found,” and once again, be reunited with the fold.  Like the other demands of discipleship, we are also called to act in such a manner, in keeping with Jesus’ own.  This is the message our Blessed Lord has for us…we must be willing to reach out, sometimes even when it may be against our better judgment.  

To repent is to come back to God, and to come back to God is to come home….

May God Richly Bless You!


With My Song.docx

To view a recording of today's Holy Mass, click here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xph5mVQ0xmI&feature=share&si=ELPmzJkDCLju2KnD5oyZMQ





Good Shepherd.jpg

Edited by Father Michael
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