THEME: THE REASON IS JESUS
READINGS: Exodus 32:7-11,13-14/ 1 Timothy 1:12-17/ Luke 15:1-32
24th Sunday in Ordinary Time
No Jesus Christ, No Christianity. There is, therefore, so much that we could say about our faith and life for which Jesus is the reason. However, in the light of today’s readings, we shall limit ourselves to forgiveness, sacrifice and perseverance.
WHY DOES GOD FORGIVE US?
In the first reading, God forgave the Israelites of their idolatry when Moses pleaded on their behalf. More so, God forgives us, because Jesus pleads for us. Indeed, the mediation of Jesus is on a scale infinitely greater than that of Moses. That is, whereas the pleading of Moses was for only one nation in the past, by the one perfect sacrifice of Jesus, God’s mercy extends to all mankind in the past, present and future. So, Moses himself enjoyed God’s forgiveness through Jesus.
Today’s gospel reading contains three parables which illuminate God’s forgiveness through Jesus. Firstly, He is the loving Shepherd who diligently looks for the lost sheep (sinner) until it is found and brought safely home (cf. Luke 15:4-7). Secondly, like the woman who frantically searches for her lost coin, Jesus ensures that none of what the Father has entrusted to Him would be lost (cf. Luke 15:8-10; cf. John 6:39). Thirdly, He is like the loving father whose compassion attracts his wasteful, irresponsible and immoral son to return home and be fully restored as an heir (cf. Luke 15:11-32). Hence, St. Paul rightly states in today’s second reading: “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Tim.1:15). In short, Jesus is the reason why God forgives us!
WHY SHOULD WE FORGIVE OTHERS?
We should forgive others, because God forgives us in Jesus Christ: “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you” (Eph. 4:32). God’s forgiveness in Jesus Christ is selfless and unconditional. Thus, Jesus asked the Father to forgive those who condemned, tortured, crucified and mocked Him even when they had not repented (cf. Luke 23:34).
Similarly, in his prayers and the administration of the Sacraments, especially, the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation, the priest demonstrates that God’s forgiveness is selfless and unconditional. Thus, whatever sin we confess are forgiven us. However, it is not only at the Confessional that the priest should exhibit selfless and unconditional forgiveness. He should do so in his daily life. That is, in his dealings with people, they should encounter the Lord Jesus who is ever merciful. Therefore, the priest cannot be vindictive.
Similarly, we should selflessly forgive those who offend us. Is there someone, we are yet to forgive? Are we waiting for an apology or a condition to be satisfied first? Let us be inspired by Jesus’ example while He was suffering on the cross, and so decide this very moment to forgive our offender. Sooner than later, then, let us express our forgiveness to the offender.
WHY SHOULD WE MAKE SACRIFICES?
The basis for God’s forgiveness is the sacrifice of Jesus. Firstly, then, a priest should not only offer the sacrifice of the Mass, he should reflect the sacrifice of Jesus in his very life. He should do so through his vows, the selfless giving of his time, efforts, talents, treasure, etc. for the good of others.
Similarly, like Jesus who selflessly sacrificed His life, we should willingly make sacrifices for our children, spouses, other relatives, friends, other neighbours and the society in general. Our society and the world in general would be different if, learning from Jesus, we all cultivate the habit of making sacrifices.
WHY SHOULD WE PERSEVERE?
Our Lord Jesus Christ was determined to choose, not His own will, but His Father’s will by drinking the cup of suffering in order to save us (cf. Matt. 26:39). Also, despite the cruel torture He endured, the heavy weight of the cross He carried, and His several falls, He persevered to Calvary to sacrifice His life. Furthermore, in the midst of grave pains when some dared Him to come down from the cross, He persevered to the perfect end: “It is finished” (John 19:30). Indeed, most people in the crowd at Calvary did not appreciate His sacrifice and forgiveness. Nonetheless, He persevered to the end, so that we can be forgiven and saved.
So, Jesus is the reason why we should persevere even when our offenders do not appreciate our forgiveness. When our forgiveness is not appreciated and we are tempted to be vengeful, let us remember that we always enjoy His forgiveness, and He has asked us to forgive seventy times seven times (cf. Matt. 18:22). Then, may His grace enable us to overlook such unappreciation and so continue to forgive offenders.
Similarly, Jesus is the reason why we should persevere even when our sacrifices are not appreciated. For instance, the sacrifices of a priest may not be appreciated by some parishioners and vice versa. Or, the sacrifices of a spouse may not be appreciated. Or, some children may not appreciate the sacrifices of their parents and vice versa. Etc. This could be discouraging to those making the sacrifices. However, they should not give up; for, just as Jesus’ sacrifice was “rewarded” with the resurrection, so constancy in sacrifice will be rewarded.
Finally, may Jesus, the reason why God forgives us, the reason why we should forgive others, the reason why we should make sacrifices and the reason why we should persevere, give us the grace to forgive others, make sacrifices, persevere and be eternally saved! Amen!
By Very Rev. Fr. John Louis