24th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sunday, September 15, 2019

First reading: Ex. 32:7-11,13-14

The LORD said to Moses, “Go down at once to your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt, for they have become depraved. They have soon turned aside from the way I pointed out to them, making for themselves a molten calf and worshiping it, sacrificing to it and crying out, ‘This is your God, O Israel, who brought you out of the land of Egypt!’ “I see how stiff-necked this people is,” continued the LORD to Moses. Let me alone, then, that my wrath may blaze up against them to consume them. Then I will make of you a great nation.”

But Moses implored the LORD, his God, saying, “Why, O LORD, should your wrath blaze up against your own people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with such great power and with so strong a hand? Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, and how you swore to them by your own self, saying, ‘I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky; and all this land that I promised, I will give your descendants as their perpetual heritage.’” So the LORD relented in the punishment he had threatened to inflict on his people.

Second reading: 1 Tim. 1:12-17

Beloved: I am grateful to him who has strengthened me, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he considered me trustworthy in appointing me to the ministry. I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and arrogant, but I have been mercifully treated because I acted out of ignorance in my unbelief. Indeed, the grace of our Lord has been abundant, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. This saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Of these I am the foremost. But for that reason I 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. To the king of ages, incorruptible, invisible, the only God, honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

Gospel: Lk. 15:1-32

Tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to Jesus, but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So to them he addressed this parable. “What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it? And when he does find it, he sets it on his shoulders with great joy and, upon his arrival home, he calls together his friends and neighbors and says to them, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you, in just the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.

“Or what woman having ten coins and losing one would not light a lamp and sweep the house, searching carefully until she finds it? And when she does find it, she calls together her friends and neighbors and says to them, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found the coin that I lost.’ In just the same way, I tell you, there will be rejoicing among the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Then he said, “A man had two sons, and the younger son said to his father, ‘Father give me the share of your estate that should come to me.’ So the father divided the property between them. After a few days, the younger son collected all his belongings and set off to a distant country where he squandered his inheritance on a life of dissipation. When he had freely spent everything, a severe famine struck that country, and he found himself in dire need. So he hired himself out to one of the local citizens who sent him to his farm to tend the swine. And he longed to eat his fill of the pods on which the swine fed, but nobody gave him any. Coming to his senses he thought, ‘How many of my father’s hired workers have more than enough food to eat, but here am I, dying from hunger. I shall get up and go to my father and I shall say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as you would treat one of your hired workers.”’ So he got up and went back to his father. While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him. His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I no longer deserve to be called your son.’ But his father ordered his servants, ‘Quickly bring the finest robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Take the fattened calf and slaughter it. Then let us celebrate with a feast, because this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again; he was lost, and has been found.’ Then the celebration began. Now the older son had been out in the field and, on his way back, as he neared the house, he heard the sound of music and dancing. He called one of the servants and asked what this might mean. The servant said to him, ‘Your brother has returned and your father has slaughtered the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ He became angry, and when he refused to enter the house, his father came out and pleaded with him. He said to his father in reply, ‘Look, all these years I served you and not once did I disobey your orders; yet you never gave me even a young goat to feast on with my friends. But when your son returns, who swallowed up your property with prostitutes, for him you slaughter the fattened calf.’ He said to him, ‘My son, you are here with me always; everything I have is yours. But now we must celebrate and rejoice, because your brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’”

In other words Fr. Roger Solis, SVD (University of San Carlos, Cebu City)

In Jesus’ time, socializing with perceived sinners and sharing food with them was unthinkable from the perspective of both the Pharisees and scribes. For them, It made one unclean; for Jesus, it was a gesture of oneness and acceptance. This made the Pharisees and scribes all the more persistent in scheming to eliminate Jesus. For them Jesus was a thorn, a hindrance that blocked their way. In response, Jesus gave three separate parables stressing the value of a person. We focus our reflection on the first two parables.

The first parable talks about the shepherd with a hundred sheep entrusted to his care. Without any hint of hesitation, he immediately leaves the ninety-nine to look for the one who went astray. Upon finding the lost sheep, he puts it on his shoulder and comes back rejoicing, inviting all his friends to share his joy because he found the lost sheep. Similarly, this is how Jesus values each one of us. He does not look on our lapses, misfortunes, and imperfections in life. Regardless of who and what we have become, we are all important in the eyes of God because each one of us is created in His image and likeness.

The second parable talks about a woman who possesses ten silver coins but lost one. A typical house during the time of Jesus was made of piled stones without any window. There was no electricity then and the floor was basically a rough earthen texture. That is why finding the lost coin in this situation gave the woman great joy. But the point of the story is similar to the first parable which stresses the value of a person. That is why Jesus punctuates the story with a very striking ending that “there will be rejoicing among the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

We need to be reminded that these parables are stories in response to Jesus’ critics, the scribes and Pharisees. He presents himself as the embodiment of the shepherd and the woman, constantly searching for those who are lost. In the mind of his detractors, however, Jesus’ action is spiritually and morally unacceptable. The scribes and Pharisees are only thinking of their spiritual purity but Jesus is concerned with bringing back the sinners to His fold. And that is precisely the reason why Jesus reached out to them. This is also a challenge to all of us because we have the tendency to live exclusive lives, taking care of our own spiritual concerns. We are called to reach out to others and search for those who have gone astray. After all, this is our calling to become Christ-like even in our own little ways.

Tags: Bible reflection, Witness to the Word