THEME: GOD’S MERCY ENDURES FOREVER
READINGS: Exodus 32:7-11,13-14/ 1 Timothy 1:12-17/ Luke 15:1-32
24th Sunday in Ordinary Time
According to Exodus 32:7-14, the Israelites of old soon forgot their God who had mightily delivered them from the misery of their slavery in Egypt and attributed their deliverance not even to a living being, but to an inanimate golden calf, which they had made with their own hands. This was certainly a great act of ingratitude to God. Worst still, it was an act of infidelity which broke the very first of the commandments which God was giving them through Moses. Yet, when Moses pleaded with God, He forgave the Israelites (Exo. 32:13-14), because His mercy endures forever.
Several centuries later, Saul, a descendant of the Israelites of old, would also testify that God’s mercy endures forever. Prior to his testimony, Saul, like his ancestors, displayed a great act of ingratitude by fighting against the cause or mission of the very Son of God who came to save him and all of mankind. That is, Saul persecuted Christians: some were imprisoned and others (like St. Stephen) suffered death.
Despite the stain of the blood of the holy men and women on Saul, he also enjoyed the mercy and forgiveness of God. This is the confession of Saul, now Paul: “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display His immense patience as an example for those who would believe in Him and receive eternal life” (1 Tim.1:15-16; second reading).
The above biblical stories of God’s mercy and forgiveness prepare us for the three parables mentioned in today’s gospel reading; namely, the parables of a lost and found coin, a lost and found sheep as well as a lost and found prodigal son (Luke 15:1-32). Our Lord Jesus told these parables to emphasize the fact that God’s mercy is more readily available than the air we breathe. Indeed, we often enjoy the mercy of God even when we have not asked for it; for if His sunshine and rainfall are enjoyed by both good and bad persons (cf. Matt. 5:25), then it is obvious some bad persons enjoy God’s mercy even when they have not pleaded for forgiveness.
What else can we use to illustrate the endless mercy of God? It is like a bank that thrives on the cancellation of the debts of its clients. I guess you cannot imagine the existence of such a bank; and you cannot wait to do business with such banks if one ever existed! Beloved, I have good news for you! This is the kind of bank God is running! God is in the business of cancelling the debts of our sins over and over again! And, what is more? They are huge debts we can never pay!
Beloved, the three parables (of a lost and found coin, a lost and found sheep as well as a lost and found prodigal son) give us a snapshot of what happens in heaven when our debts are cancelled: the whole heaven rejoices with God anytime we ask for forgiveness. Can you imagine this: at a time when many creditors are angrily pursuing their debtors, God and the whole company of heaven rejoice when we ask for forgiveness?
Therefore, beloved, let us begin to process our request for the cancellation of the debt of our sins. We need not a paper for our application, but our heart – a contrite heart. We need not a pen to write the application but our mind to decide. We need not some ink to scribble, but the “blood which speaks more eloquently than that of Abel” (Heb. 12:24). We need not a postal service to mail our application but the ever-present grace of the Holy Spirit whose Eternal Mail Service (EMS) is faster than the speed of light, sending our plea to the mercy seat of God the very moment we repent.
Furthermore, we do not need a bank CEO to endorse our application, but Jesus Himself, who is seated at the right hand of the mercy throne, and whose words on the cross constantly re-echo in the Father’s eager ears and ever-merciful heart: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34)! Finally, may the ever-merciful Father forgive us this moment and always as He hears these pleading words of His Beloved Son. Amen!
By Very Rev. Fr. John Louis