Sunday, September 15, 2019

Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

National Catechetical Sunday
In other years: Our Lady of Sorrows

Readings of the Day
RB: Ch 2:33-40
Mass: Ex 32:7-11, 13-14; Resp Ps 51; 1 Tim 1:12-17; Lk 15:1-32

O Lord, open my lips and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.

A word for today is mercy. Our readings are saturated with the mercy of God. We begin by using the words of St Paul as a lens for taking it all in. Quite clearly, St Paul tells us: "Christ came into the world to save sinners" (1 Tm 1:15). Paul goes on to boldly admit: "Of these I am foremost"! In the Gospel, it is the tax collectors and sinners who were all drawing near to listen to Jesus (Lk 15:1). Those who gathered around Jesus to really listen to Him and former blasphemer, persecutor, and arrogant (1 Tm 1:13) Paul knew Christ's preferential option for sinners. They were first in line to be touched and healed by the Divine Healer, Mercy incarnate. Aren't we all first in line with them? If we are honest, we are a wounded people, individually and collectively, deeply in need of God's love and mercy. It is for us that Christ came into the world. 

In a 2016 interview with Andrea Tornielli, later published as The Name of God is Mercy (Random House, 2016), Pope Francis calls the Church a field hospital. The Church, the Body of Christ, is "a field hospital, where treatment is given above all to those who are most wounded. A Church that warms people's heart's with its closeness and nearness" (Kindle, loc. 193). To answer Tornielli's question, "What is mercy for you?", the Holy Father continues: 

Etymologically, "mercy"' derives from misericordis, which means opening one's heart to wretchedness. And immediately we go to the Lord: mercy is the divine attitude which embraces, it is God's giving himself to us, accepting us, and bowing to forgive. Jesus said he came not for those who were good but for sinners. He did not come for the healthy, who did not need a doctor, but for the sick. For this reason, we can say mercy is God's identity card. God of Mercy, merciful God. For me, this really is the Lord's identity (Kindle, loc. 193) 

Moses knew God's identity. The people had turned to idolatry and God was not at all pleased with their behavior. God was ready for His wrath to consume them. So Moses implored the Lord for mercy. By the end of the story, "the Lord relented in the punishment he had threatened to inflict on his people" (Ex 32:14). Paul knew the Lord's identity. He opened his heart to wretchedness and knew that through him, "Christ Jesus might display all his patience as an example for those who would come to believe in Him for everlasting life" (1 Tm 1:16). 

We are the lost sheep of the Gospel parable; we are the lost coin; we are the son gone off to squander his inheritance. As we pray with today's Word proclaimed, we might privately or with others ponder and discuss the next questions posed to Pope Francis in the interview: "What place and meaning do mercy have in your heart, life, and personal history? Do you remember your first experience of mercy as a child?" (Kindle, loc. 209). 

(Resp Ps 51)

Whatever the reason for finding ourselves far from where we want to be, we can be sure of one thing: God is actively seeking us in our misery, wanting nothing else but to bring us to the place of joyful reconciliation.
(Michael Casey, OCSO)

God waits for us: He doesn't get tired, He doesn't lose heart. Because it is each one of us who is that child embraced again, that coin found again, that sheep caressed and put back on His shoulders.
(Pope Francis, Angelus Address, Twitter, September 15, 2019)

© Gertrude Feick 2019

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