OT XXIV [C] (Sept 15) Sunday Homily - One-page summary (L/19)
OT XXIV [C] (Sept 15) Sunday homily- one-page summary (L/19)
Today’s readings invite us to believe in a loving, patient, merciful, forgiving God. The Good News Jesus preached was that God is not a cruel, judging and punishing God. He is our loving and forgiving Heavenly Father who wants to save everyone through His Son Jesus. He is always in search of His lost and straying children, as Jesus explains in the three parables of today’s Gospel.
Scripture lessons summarized:
In today’s first reading, taken from Exodus, Moses is imploring a forgiving God to have mercy on the sinful people who have abandoned Him and turned to idol-worship. He reminds God of His promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Today’s Responsorial Psalm, Ps 51 is the song of the sinful man returning to God to seek His mercy. In today’s second reading, Paul tells Timothy that, although he, Paul, had been the greatest of sinners as the former persecutor of the Church, God has shown great mercy towards him. Chapter 15 of Luke's Gospel has been called "the Gospel within the Gospel," because it is the distilled essence of the Good News about the mercy of our forgiving Heavenly Father. The whole chapter is essentially one distinct parable, the “Parable of the Lost and Found,” with three illustrations: the story of the lost sheep, the story of the lost coin and the story of the lost son. These parables remind us that we have a God who welcomes sinners and forgives their sins whenever they return to Him with genuine contrition and resolution. The Hebrew term for repentance, teshuvá, means a return to God by a person who has already experienced God’s “goodness and compassion” (Ps. 51).
1) We need to live every day as our merciful God’s forgiven children: Let us begin every day offering all our actions for God’s glory and praying for the strengthening anointing of the Holy Spirit so that we may obey God’s holy will by doing good and avoiding evil, and try to live in God’s presence everywhere. Before we go to bed at night, let us examine our conscience and confess to God our sins and failures of the day, asking His pardon and forgiveness. Let us resolve to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation if we have fallen into serious sins. Let us continue to ask for God’s forgiveness before we receive Jesus in Holy Communion during the Holy Mass. Thus, let us live a peaceful life as forgiven prodigal children, getting daily reconciled with God our merciful and forgiving Father.
2) Let us ask God for the courage and good will to extend His forgiveness to others: Let us realize the truth that our brothers and sisters deserve and expect from us the same compassion, kindness, and forgiveness which we receive from our merciful God. As forgiven prodigals, we must become forgiving people, for Jesus taught us to pray, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” As we continue with the celebration of the Holy Mass, let us pray also for God's Divine mercy on all of us who have fallen away from God’s grace. Let us open our eyes to see and ears to hear that Jesus is welcoming us back home!
OT XXIV [C] (Sept 15) Ex 32:7-11, 13-14; I Tm 1:12-17; Lk 15:1-32
Homily starter anecdotes
# 1: Prodigal son’s prodigal father: He was a rebel, a college drop-out, a carouser, and a partier. He smoked, he drank Johnnie-Walker, he was a brawler, and he had more run-ins with the law than you would care to count. By his own admission, he was the quintessential prodigal son. But now, following the most respected, admired, and perhaps famous American of the twentieth century, Billy Graham, Franklin Graham not only has a tremendous, benevolent ministry called The Samaritan Purse, from which he meets needs all over the world, but is preaching the Gospel just as his dad did, to thousands and thousands of people. He is where he is today because he had a father who made sure the door was always open for his prodigal son. (https://hopeonfranklingraham.weebly.com/).
# 2: <1987 <2007 Miraculous rescue of Jessica McClure: For two days in October of 1987, not just a community, not just a state, not just a nation, but the entire world was watching with bated breath the drama of an eighteen-month-old little girl named Jessica McClure who had fallen twenty-two feet through an eight-inch opening in an oil pipeline at a daycare center. For fifty-eight solid hours over two and a half days, drilling experts, highway construction equipment, pneumatic drills, special air vents, high pressure hydraulic drills, were expended in an unbelievable Herculean effort to rescue this one little girl. When she was finally pulled from that hole, an entire world cheered. When rescuers finally brought her to the surface, her head was bandaged. She was covered with dirt and bruises, and her right palm was immobilized to her face. She had to undergo five surgeries and lost one of her toes. Despite the size and diversity of the United States, the drama of Baby Jessica's being lost and found touched hearts nationwide. Every parent hugged his/her own child a little tighter. For just a moment in time, one lost little girl became lost to each of them. And when everyone's child, Baby Jessica, was found at last, an entire nation rejoiced. (Jessica is thirty years old in 2016, happily married to Daniel Morales and is a stay-at-home mom of two children, still carrying a scar on her forehead. At 25, she received $ 800,000 from the bank, the gifts people donated for her after her miraculous rescue as a child). In today's Gospel text, Jesus has the courage to suggest to his audience, especially those surly, grumbling Pharisees and scribes, that this is the kind of rejoicing that goes on in Heaven every time a sinner repents. (https://youtu.be/HBk5mlVYAZ4).
3) “They're looking for me:" There's an old, old story, that I think is still funny. The phone rings and a little boy answers in a whisper: "Hello?" The caller says: "Hi, is your Mommy there? "Yes!" "Can I talk to her?" "No!" "Why not?" "She's busy." "What about your Daddy, can I talk to him?" "No! He's busy." "Well, is there anyone else there?" "My little sister." "Is there anyone else there? Another adult?" "Uh, huh. The police." "Can I talk to one of them?" "No, they're busy." "Is there anyone else there?" "Yes, the firemen." "Can I talk to one of them?" "No, they're busy, too." Caller: "Good heavens, your whole family's busy, the police and fire departments are there and they're busy! What's everybody doing?" The little boy giggled and whispered: "They're looking for me." Today's passage of Scripture is about searching and finding. And that's an old story that illustrates the frantic nature of people who have lost something and are in search of it.
# 4: Prodigal grandfather’s returned prodigal grandson: Billy Graham and Ruth Bell Graham also have a prodigal grandson Tullian Tchividjian, the middle of seven children born to Stephan Tchividjian and Billy Graham’s eldest daughter, Gigi. At 16, unable to obey his parents’ basic rules (like not bringing drugs in the house), he was escorted by police from his home. He dropped out of school and spent the next five years partying on South Beach. “I was a wild man. I lived a no-holds-barred lifestyle,” Tchividjian said. “If I believed it would bring me maximum pleasure in the moment, I did it, no matter what it was.” Eventually, he said, he bottomed out. He arrived home late one night, coming down from a high, and literally fell to the floor. “God, I have tried my best to ignore you and to do things my way,” he remembers praying. “I’m broken. I’m broken and in need of fixing.” A classic prodigal son story followed. Tchividjian recommitted himself to Christ, entered the seminary, became a minister. He married and had three children. He started the New City Presbyterian Church, a 450-member church in Coconut Creek. He wrote a book, “Do I Know God?” It was published in 2007 and asks readers to ponder the title’s question. ( http://www.nbcnews.com/id/20377310/ns/us_news-faith/t/billy-grahams-kin-shares-prodigal-son-story/#.XUNfiknsbcs).
The central theme of today’s readings is the invitation to believe in a loving, patient, merciful, forgiving God. Today’s readings remind us that God actively seeks out the lost, wants their repentance and rejoices when the lost are found. God is eager to be merciful toward us, not vengeful and punishing. He is always in search of His lost and straying children, as Jesus explains in the three parables of today’s Gospel, parables about losing, finding, and rejoicing.
Scripture readings summarized:
Our God has always been a God of mercy and patience, a God who seeks out the lost, as shown in the experience of Israel in the desert (the first reading), and through the amazing mercy shown to Paul, the former persecutor of the Church (the second reading). Today’s Responsorial Psalm, Ps 51 is the song of the repentant sinner: “A clean heart create for me, O God, and a steadfast spirit renew within me.” When God forgive our sins, we can hope for a new heart and a fresh start. Chapter 15 of Luke's Gospel has been called "the Gospel within the Gospel," because it is the distilled essence of the Good News about the mercy of our forgiving Heavenly Father. The whole chapter is essentially one distinct parable, the “Parable of the Lost and Found,” with three illustrations: the story of the lost sheep, the story of the lost coin and the story of the lost son. These parables are about finding something that has been lost: a lost sheep, a lost coin and a lost son. Loss, searching, finding, rejoicing, and sharing of the joy is the pattern in the first two parables. These parables remind us that we have a God who welcomes sinners and forgives their sins whenever they return to Him with genuine contrition and resolution. The Hebrew term for repentance, teshuvá, means a return to God by a person who has already experienced God’s “goodness and compassion” (Ps. 51).
The first reading (Exodus 32: 1-14) explained:
The rhythm of man’s sin and God’s forgiveness pervades the Jewish and Christian Scriptures. In today’s passage, taken from Exodus, Moses is imploring God to have mercy on the sinful people who have abandoned Him and turned to idol-worship (golden calf). Moses reminds God of His promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and insists that the people belong to God not to Moses whom God had commanded and authorized to lead them out of Egypt. The reading concludes with the consoling passage: “So the Lord relented in the punishment He had threatened to inflict on His people,” in response to the audacious and unselfish plea of Moses. [Some Bible scholars consider this incident of idol-worship as an anachronized event: an event which took place later in Israel’s history and was then incorporated into the book of Exodus. They say the apostasy of the golden calf actually took place during the tenth century B.C.E. during the reign of Jeroboam I the first king of the northern kingdom of Israel. Jeroboam set up two golden calves in the sanctuaries].
Second reading (I Tm 1:12-17) explained:
The source for our second reading for today, 1 Timothy, is classified among the Pastoral Letters along with 2 Timothy and Titus. (It is believed by some Bible scholars to have been written by a disciple of Paul who was familiar with his mentor’s teachings and sympathetic to his concerns). Here Paul repeats his story of conversion, intending to offer to everyone who will listen, a challenge to conversion. Paul always contrasts his life before Christ with his life after his Damascus experience. In today’s passage (1:12-17), Paul tells Timothy that, although he, Paul, had been the greatest of sinners, as a blasphemer and arrogant persecutor, God showed great mercy towards him. Paul’s sin was self-righteousness: he had been a zealot ready to persecute anyone he judged doctrinally unsound. It was Paul, then called Saul, who, approving the actions of St. Stephen’s stoners, had watched over their cloaks. In his letter, Paul reminds young Bishop Timothy of how God in His mercy changed Paul’s mind and pardoned him. “But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the Faith and Love that are in Christ Jesus.” Paul acknowledges the fact that he had wandered from the truth and rejoices that God first found him, then commissioned him to preach the Good News of God’s unconditional love, calling every prodigal home. Like John Newton, the eighteenth-century English composer of Amazing Grace, Paul declared his past openly. . . “I once was lost” . . . “I once was a blasphemer, a persecutor, a man filled with arrogance” (v. 13). Calling himself, “the worst of sinners,” and, “an extreme case,” (vv 15, 16), Paul invites us to marvel at the mercy of God and to find hope and help for dealing with our own need for conversion. Every forgiven and transformed prodigal can rejoice with Paul by offering honor and glory to the merciful and forgiving God.
The parables of a loving and forgiving God: In the first two parables, there are the common elements of loss, searching, finding, rejoicing, and sharing of the joy. These parables show a God seeking sinners, and in the third parable, we see a God forgiving and receiving sinners. As a group, the parables tell us about God's generosity in seeking and receiving the sinner and the joy of the sinner in being received by a forgiving and loving God. All three parables of Luke 15 end with a party or a celebration of the finding. Since the self-righteous Pharisees, who accused Jesus of befriending publicans and sinners, could not believe that God would be delighted at the conversion of sinners, Jesus told them the parable of the lost sheep and the shepherd's joy on its discovery, the parable of the lost coin and the woman’s joy when she found it, and the parable of the lost and returned son and his Father’s joy. Besides presenting a God who is patiently waiting for the return of the sinners, ready to pardon them, these parables teach us of God’s infinite love and mercy. These three parables defend Jesus’ alliance with sinners and respond to the criticism by certain Pharisees and scribes of Jesus’ frequent practice of eating with and welcoming tax-collectors and sinners and of his receptivity to the lost among God’s people.
The lost sheep: Shepherding in Judaea was a hard and dangerous task. Pasture was scarce, and thorny scrub jungles with wild animals and vast desert areas were common, posing a constant threat to the wandering sheep. But the shepherds were famous for their dedicated, sacrificial service, perpetual vigilance, and readiness for action. Hence, the shepherd was the national symbol of Divine Providence and self-sacrificing love in Israel. Two or three shepherds might be personally responsible for the sheep owned by several families in a village. If any sheep was missing, one of the shepherds would go in search of it, sending the other shepherds home with the flock. The whole village would be waiting for the return of the shepherd with the lost sheep and would receive him with shouts of joy and of thanksgiving. That is the picture Jesus draws of God. God is as glad when a lost sinner is found as a shepherd is when a strayed sheep is brought home. Men may give up hope of reclaiming a sinner, but not so God. God loves those people who never stray from Him, but He expresses even greater joy when a lost sinner comes home.
The Lost Coin: The coin in question in this parable was a silver drachma. Since the houses were very dark, with one little circular window, and since the floor was made of beaten earth covered with dried reeds and rushes, it was practically impossible to find such a tiny coin. But the woman tried her best to get it back because it was worth more than a whole day's wage for a workingman in Palestine. If the coin was one of the ten silver coins attached by a silver chain to the traditional headdress of a married woman, it was as important to her as the wedding ring in our society. Thus, we can understand the woman’s joy when at last she saw the glint of the elusive coin. God, said Jesus, is like that. The joy of God and of all the angels when one sinner comes home is like the joy of a woman who loses her most precious possession with a value far beyond money and then finds it again. We believe in the seeking love of God because we see that Love Incarnate in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who came to seek and to save that which was lost.
The lost son: This has been called” the greatest short story in the world.” It speaks about the deep effects of sin, the self-destruction of hatred and the infinite mercy of God. This is a story of love, of conflict, of deep heartbreak, and of ecstatic joy. The scene opens on a well-to-do Jewish family. With the immaturity of a spoiled brat the younger son demands impudently of his gracious father, "Give me the portion of goods that falls to me." Demanding inheritance while the father was alive was equivalent to treating the father as dead. Under Jewish law, when a father divided his property between two sons, the elder son had to receive two-thirds and the younger one-third (Dt 21:17). In Jesus' parable, the younger son offends his father again by selling out his share of the inheritance and then squandering the money in a faraway city. The land was sacred to the Jewish people because it was the Promised Land given to the Chosen People. Hence, each bit of land was considered holy, and no Israelite could lawfully sell his property (Lev. 25:23, I Kg. 21). Ancient “social security” basically consisted in sons farming their father’s land and taking care of their parents until their death. Thus, in selling his land, the prodigal has sold his parents’ social security.
The conversion, return, and confession: When he becomes bankrupt, the prodigal son ends up feeding pigs, a task that was forbidden to a Jew (Leviticus 11:7; 14:8). Having sunk to the depths of economic, spiritual and moral depravity, the prodigal finally “comes to his senses” (v. 17). So he decides to return to his father, to ask his forgiveness and to beg for the status of a hired servant. When he sees his son returning, the ever-watchful father runs to him and gives him a cordial welcome along with a new robe, a ring and new shoes. Symbolically, the robe stands for honor; the ring for authority (the signet ring gave a person the power of attorney) and the shoes for the son's place as a member of the family (slaves did not wear shoes). The father also throws a great feast killing the “fatted calf’ reserved for the Passover feast so that all may rejoice at the wanderer's return.
The “Prodigal Father” and the self-righteous elder brother: The parable illustrates the wonder of God’s love and unconditional forgiveness. God seeks out the sinner and forgives him unconditionally. Jesus recounts the story of the elder brother as his response to the accusation by the self-righteous Pharisees that he was the friend of sinners. The elder brother represents the self-righteous Pharisees who would rather see a sinner destroyed than saved. He reflects the Pharisees' attitude that obedience to Mosaic Law is a duty, not a loving service. Like the Pharisees, the elder brother lacks sympathy for his sibling and levels accusations against him. As a self-righteous person, he refuses to forgive. Thus, his grudge becomes a sin in itself, resulting in his self-exclusion from the banquet of his father’s love. That is what we all do when we sin. We exclude ourselves from the banquet of God’s love
1) We need to live every day as our merciful God’s forgiven children: Let us begin every day by praying for the strengthening anointing of the Holy Spirit so that we may learn how to obey God’s holy will by doing good, avoiding evil, and trying to live in God’s presence everywhere. Before we go to bed at night, let us examine our conscience and confess to God our sins and failures of the day, asking His pardon and forgiveness. Let us resolve to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation if we have fallen into serious sins. Let us continue to ask for God’s forgiveness before we receive Jesus in Holy Communion during the Holy Mass. Thus, let us live a peaceful life as forgiven prodigal children, getting daily reconciled with God, our merciful and forgiving Father.
2) Let us ask God for the courage and good will to extend God’s forgiveness to others: Let us realize the truth that our brothers and sisters deserve and expect from us the same compassion, kindness and forgiveness which we receive from our merciful God. As forgiven prodigals, we must become forgiving people, for Jesus taught us to pray, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” As we continue with the celebration of the Holy Mass, let us pray also for God's Divine mercy on all of us who have fallen away from God’s grace. Let us open our eyes to see and ears to hear that Jesus is welcoming us back home!
3) We need the Father’s Compassion: Some of us take the prodigal son as a role mode: go astray at will and come back to be welcomed back! Some others are ‘good’ like the elder brother; not willing to forgive. Once we have returned to the Father and had been welcomed and accepted, we must emulate the love and forgiveness as shown by father in the story. As heirs to our Father we must practice love and forgiveness for all in need. Jesus is not asking us to be like either of the two brothers. Let us try and be like the father in the story. “Be made perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Be compassionate as my Father.” (Joe Vempeny)
JOKE OF THE WEEK:
1) The most unhappy character: The pastor told the story of "The Prodigal Son" to a first-grade class. To check on their understanding, he asked; "Who was the unhappy character in the story when the prodigal son returned?" An eager boy raised his hand and stated the simple truth. “The Fatted Calf.”
2) The self-righteous admirer. Bishop Sheen once told a story about a trip he made by plane, and how one of the attendants made a big fuss over him. "Do you want some more coffee, Your Excellency?" "Oh, my mother prays for you every day." "I must write to her and tell her about seeing you." About that time a big Texan who had had a little too much to drink, started cursing, making passes at the attendant and creating a big ruckus. Finally, the attendant who had had enough, walked up to the Texan and said, "Sir, I'm afraid I'm going to have to ask you to be quiet. Bishop Sheen, the famous televangelist is flying with us." "Bishop Fulton J. Sheen is flying with us?" the Texan asked with surprise. Then he stumbled back to where Bishop Sheen was sitting and said, "Bishop Sheen, I'm so glad to meet you. I just want you to know how much your sermons have helped me to live an ideal Christian life!"
3) Pastor for the dinner on the return of the prodigal son. Mr. & Mrs. Dennis invited their pastor for the dinner hosted in honor of the return of their son after long years of his wandering life. As Mrs. Dennis busied herself preparing food, she asked her little daughter to set the table. When the pastor started the prayer before the meals, Mrs. Dennis noticed that her daughter forgot to place silverware for the pastor. Embarrassed at the oversight, Mrs. Dennis asked her little girl why she had not placed silverware for the pastor. “Because, Mom, I have heard Papa saying that our pastor eats like a horse!”
USEFUL WEBSITES OF THE WEEK (For Bible study groups)
1) Agape Catholic Bible Lessons
2) Word of God Every Day
3) Bible Study Tools
4) Fr. Geoffrey Plant’s beautiful & scholarly video classes on Sunday gospel, Bible & RCIA topics
5) Text Week homilies on Luke 15: 1-32
21 Additional anecdotes:
1) "Paco, meet me at the Hotel Montana noon Tuesday. All is forgiven." In Ernest Hemingway’s short story, a Spanish newspaper carried a poignant story about a father and his son. It went like this. A teen-aged boy, Paco, and his very wealthy father had a falling out and the young man ran away from home. The father was crushed. After a few days, he realized that the boy was serious, so the father set out to find him. He searched high and low for five months to no avail. Finally, in a last, desperate attempt to find his son, the father put an ad in a Madrid newspaper. The ad read, "Dear Paco, Meet me at the Hotel Montana noon Tuesday. All is forgiven. I love you. Signed, Your Father. On Tuesday, in the office of Hotel Montana, over 800 Pacos showed up, looking for love and forgiveness from their fathers!! What a magnet that ad was. Over 800 Pacos because Paco was a very common name!! In today’s Gospel Jesus tells the story of such a Paco and the joy it brings to his father and his heavenly Father.
2) Prodigal girl December’s return: Many years ago, comedian Chonda Pierce met a young woman named December. December’s father was a pastor. December got the message early on that pastor’s children are supposed to be perfect. December knew she would never be good enough for the people at Church. So December began rebelling against her family’s and her Church’s expectations. By her late teens, she was living on the streets. She spent her nights partying, sleeping with any man who caught her eye. Sometimes, she would slip into her parents’ Church during the service, but she always left before anyone could talk to her. After she became pregnant, December decided to return to her parents. She expected shame and condemnation. Instead, December’s parents welcomed her back with open arms. As she says, “The bottom line is that I came back to my family and God because they love me with no strings attached. They forgave me. I thought I could do something to make them disown me, but I was wrong.” [Chonda Pierce, It’s Always Darkest Before the Fun Comes Up (Grand Rapids, MI.: Zondervan, 1998), pp. 80-84).]
3) Newsweek story of the return of the meth addict prodigal: In 1990, Michale Mohr’s son, Jeff, moved to Arizona to work as a computer technician. Michale, back in Portland, Oregon, looked forward to her son’s weekly calls. But after a few years in Arizona, Jeff’s phone calls began to taper off. When Michale’s letters to him were returned, she decided to investigate. Michale found out from Jeff’s friends that he had become addicted to crystal meth, a powerful drug. One day, Jeff had just walked away from his apartment. No one knew where he was. For the next three years, Michale Mohr made it her mission in life to find her son. She flew back and forth between Oregon and Arizona, canvassing Jeff’s old neighborhood and talking to his friends and associates. The police offered little help. Michale’s quest to find her drug addicted son led her into dangerous, rundown neighborhoods. At one point, she even dressed as a homeless woman in order to relate to the street people she interviewed. Finally, after three years, Michale made contact with someone who knew Jeff. She remembers distinctly the day she found him. Jeff rode up on his bicycle. He had lost weight, his teeth were rotting, he was bruised from a recent beating. But he had ridden on his bicycle for ten miles in the sweltering Arizona heat to find her. They ran into each other’s arms. Jeff had been trying to fight his addiction, but he had been afraid to contact his mother, afraid of how his addiction might hurt her. You will be happy to know that Jeff Mohr moved back to Oregon, got a steady job, and joined Narcotics Anonymous. (“The Seamier Side of Life” by Michale Mohr, Newsweek, August 18, 1997, p. 14.)
4) From the Den of Lions to the land of freedom: In his book, Den of Lions (Crown Publishers, Inc., New York: 1993), Terry Anderson chronicled his journey from terrorist captivity for 12 months to freedom. Anderson, the Chief Middle East Correspondent for the Associated Press, was kidnapped from a street of Moslem West Beirut on March 16, 1985. In his book he recollects how he left the Church when he was young and slowly moved toward agnosticism for several years, “losing his way for a while,” doing evil things as did the “Prodigal Son.” During his first few weeks of confinement, Anderson was deprived of food, slapped, punched, kicked, cursed at and spat upon. With his legs and arms chained to a metal cot, he felt that he was, as he said, “on the edge of madness, of losing control completely, of breaking down.” From the edge of madness, he began to plead with his captors. His request for a Bible was granted and, in that moment,, he began the journey that would lead him back to God. By the time he had marked his fifth month in captivity, Anderson realized that it had been twenty-five years since he had admitted his weaknesses and failures through sacramental reconciliation. So, when the opportunity to do so arose, he was grateful. The chance for reconciliation with God was given through Father Lawrence Jenco, a Catholic priest and fellow hostage. As they sat together on the floor, Jenco’s warm smile and kindly manner enabled Anderson to ask God for forgiveness. “I have sinned,” he admitted, “in word and in thought, and in what I have done and what I have failed to do.” With his hand resting lightly on Anderson’s head, Father Jenco assured him, “In the name of a gentle loving God, you are forgiven.” Then he pulled the younger man’s head to his shoulder and hugged him. Both men were crying as one received the full flood of the other’s anger, guilt and remorse and returned only warmth, love and understanding. Although he would not be free to return home to the U.S. for another seven years, Anderson had already found his way home to God and the freedom of forgiveness. Secure in that experience, he also found the spiritual strength and stamina that enabled him to survive the remainder of his captivity. Today’s Gospel passage describes how God rejoices at the return of his prodigal children, in the shepherd who found his lost sheep, the woman who found her lost silver coin, and the father of the prodigal son who got back his lost son. (Patricia Datchuck Sánchez).
5) God of justice or God of forgiveness: On February 3rd of 1998, the State of Texas executed Miss Karla Faye Tucker Brown for her part in two extremely brutal murders committed in 1983. Karla was the first woman executed by Texas since the 1860’s and she was a born-again Christian. She had a childhood full of abuse and neglect, a youth as a prodigal daughter immersed in a world of drugs and immorality leading her to a sensational, brutal crime earning society's ultimate punishment. In an attempt to steal a motorbike from the house of Jerry Lynn Dean, she and her boyfriend, Daniel Garrett, brutally murdered Jerry Dean and his girlfriend Deborah Thornton with pickaxes in Jerry’s house at night. Karla was, to all appearances, a repentant murderer in jail for 15 years. At the moment of her execution there were two groups of people outside the Texas state prison in Huntsville: a group protesting her execution, who were there praying for her, and a group demanding her execution, who were there cheering and jeering as she was received her lethal injection and died. The praying group was calling for love and mercy, and forgiveness and the cheering group was calling for justice. The parable of the Prodigal Son reminds us today that for God, love, compassion, and forgiveness take precedence over blind justice.
6) Prodigal son in Johannesburg: In his novel, Cry the Beloved Country (1948), South African educator, author and reluctant politician, Alan Paton, told the story of a father and son in Johannesburg. The boy had strayed to what Winston Churchill had called “that alien land where standards and ideals are lost” (a far country). Desperate to find his lost son, the father searched the entire city, street by street. Relentlessly, tirelessly, he traveled from reform school to Shanty Town, to the jails, inquiring of everyone he met until, at last, he found his wandering boy and brought him home. Like the loving father featured in today’s Gospel, he did not reproach his son but rejoiced in the fact of their reunion.
7) "Well, that's cute, Mom. What is it?" A divorced woman found herself struggling with an increasingly rebellious teenage daughter. It all came to a head late one night when the police called her to pick up her daughter who had been arrested for drunk driving. The two of them didn't speak on the way home or next day either, until at last the mother broke the tension by giving her daughter a small, gift-wrapped package. The girl opened it with an air of indifference and found inside a small rock. "Well, that's cute, Mom. What is it?" "Read the card, dear," the mother replied. As the girl did so, tears began to trickle down her cheeks, and she gave her mom a hug as the card fell to the floor. On the card her mother had written: "This rock is more than 200 million years old. That's how long it'll take before I give up on you." That's what Jesus is telling us about God in today’s readings: He never gives up on us. (Fr. Clarke)
8) "Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree." In 1973, Tony Orlando recorded the song, "Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree." It became the number one hit record for the year, became Tony Orlando's theme song and grew into an American anthem of hope and homecoming, reunion and renewal. We have used it (and its yellow ribbon symbol), to welcome home soldiers, POW's, hostages and lost children. The song was probably inspired by the following story. A young man is on a train. He seems deeply troubled -- nervous, anxious, afraid, fighting back the tears. An older man seated beside him senses that something is wrong, and he asks the younger man if he is all right. The young man, needing to talk, blurts out his story: Three years before, after an argument with his father one evening, the young man had run away from home! He had chased back and forth across the country looking for freedom and happiness and, with every passing day, had become more miserable. Finally, it dawned on him that, more than anything, he wanted to go home. Home was where he wanted to be, but he didn't know how his parents felt about him now. He had written ahead that he would be passing by their backyard on the afternoon train on this day and if they forgave him, if they wanted to see him, if they wanted him to come home, to tie a white rag on the crabapple tree in the backyard. If the white rag were there, he would get off the train and come home; if not, he would stay on the train and stay out of their lives forever. Just as the young man finished his story, the train began to slow down as it pulled into the town where his family lived. Tension was heavy, so much so that the young man couldn't bear to look. The older man said: "I'll watch for you. You put your head down and relax close your eyes. I'll watch for you." As they came to the old home place, the older man looked and then touched the young man excitedly on the shoulder and said: "Look, son, look! You can go home! You can go home! There's a white rag on every limb!" Isn't that a great story? The truth is: that powerful story is simply a modern re-telling of the greatest short story in history, namely, Jesus' parable of the Prodigal Son. The story was probably inspired by the Parable of the prodigal son.
9) "But he nearly killed the prodigal son!" A teenager came to his pastor for advice: "I left home," said the boy, "and did something that will make my dad furious when he finds out. What should I do?" The pastor thought for a moment and replied, "Go home and confess your sins to your father, and he'll probably forgive you and treat you like the prodigal son." Sometime later the boy reported to his pastor, "Well, I told Dad what I did." "And did he kill the fatted calf for you?" asked the priest. "No," said the boy, "but he nearly killed the prodigal son!"
10) Rescue of nine miners: On Wednesday, July 24, 2002, nine Pennsylvania miners were trapped 240 feet underground. For three days Americans followed the drama hoping and praying for a miracle. Within twenty-four hours of the disaster, the rescuers successfully lowered an air pipe to where they believed the miners were. By banging on the pipe, the miners signaled that they were alive. Only about a third of the way into the solid granite a 1500-pound drill bit broke. One miner later said, “We fought despair when the drilling stopped.” He found a pen and wrote a good-bye note to his family. Rescuers would not give up. Eventually they reached the miners and lifted each one to safety to the thundering applause of colleagues, reporters and family. Today’s Gospel reminds us that the Church must recover its search and rescue mission, return to its apostolic roots, and start caring for lost people. That is our mission. As long as there is one lost person, all Heaven is concerned.
11) "I once was lost, but now am found." "Amazing Grace" is always listed among the favorite hymns. It is an old one. It goes back to the 18th century. It was written by John Newton, who was on the sea from the time he was a little boy. When he was a young man, he became the captain of his own ship, a ship that brought African slaves to the colonies to work the plantations. Back in England, between voyages, he went to hear George Whitefield preach and was converted. He realized the evil of his occupation, left it, and became a priest in the Church of England and served the rest of his life as the rector of a little church in a town called Olney. He wrote a number of hymns which were printed in a collection called the "Olney Hymns," (a classic collection of hymns in the Church), and "Amazing Grace" was one of them. Even people who are not members of churches, and those who do not profess Faith, find something about this hymn touching them. It is over two hundred years old. It is uncompromisingly Christian in its language. It is evangelical in its message, reflecting John Newton's experience of being found. "I once was lost, but now am found." Maybe that is the clue to its popularity, because it could be called the Christian understanding of our relationship with God. God has found us.
12) Rembrandt's painting of the Prodigal Son: In 1986 Henri Nouwen, a Dutch theologian and writer, toured St. Petersburg, Russia, the former Leningrad. While there he visited the famous Hermitage where he saw, among other things, Rembrandt's painting of the Prodigal Son. The painting was in a hallway and received the natural light of a nearby window. Nouwen stood for two hours, mesmerized by this remarkable painting. As he stood there the sun changed, and at every change of the light's angle he saw a different aspect of the painting revealed. He would later write: "There were as many paintings in the Prodigal Son as there were changes in the day." Just as Henri Nouwen saw a half dozen different facets in Rembrandt's painting of the Prodigal Son, so, too, are there many different angles in the story itself.
13) Create him not: An old Jewish legend describes what happened when God created man. The legend says God took into counsel the Angels that stood about his throne. The Angel of Justice said; 'Create him not, for if You do, he will commit all kinds of wickedness against his fellow man; ' The Angel of Truth said, 'Create him not, for he will be false and deceitful to his brother and even to Thee.' The Angel of Holiness stood and said; 'Create him not, for he will follow that which is impure in Your sight and dishonor You to Your Face.' Then stepped forward the Angel of Mercy, God's most beloved angel, and said; 'Create him, our Heavenly Father, for when he sins and turns from the path of right and truth and holiness, I will take him tenderly by the hand, and speak loving words to him and then lead him back to you.' (Fr. Chirackal)
14) Five for Sorrow, Ten for Joy: In her novel, Five for Sorrow, Ten for Joy, author Rumer Godden tells an intriguing tale. The heroine of the story is Lise an English army girl who falls on hard times and becomes a prostitute after the liberation of Paris in World War II. Within a short time, she becomes the leading Madame in one of Paris' smartest brothels owned by a man named Patrice. But Patrice soon tires of Madame Lise as his mistress and she is humiliated. In trying to help a younger prostitute escape from the same fate she suffered, Lise shoots and kills Patrice. So she is sent to prison where she meets the French Dominican Sisters of Bethanie. This is a community dedicated to serving whores, drug addicts and vagrants; some of the sisters were once themselves such unfortunates. Lise becomes one of the Sisters of Bethanie. -Sister Lise is a prototype of the lost sheep and the lost coin in today's Gospel, reminding us that God's grace is greater than our sins. (Albert Cylwicki in His Word Resounds; quoted by Fr. Botelho).
15) Lost and Found: Everyone has lost something at one time or another. There is even a website complete with mobile app, www.lostandfound.com, that acts as a global 'lost and found' box. Users can report items missing and users can report items found. It is a good example of how technology can help people connect in a useful way. This is a gateway site for all of the physical things that can be retrieved and returned to their rightful owners. According to their statistics, about twice as many objects have been reported lost as have been reported found in the U.S. So, the site's users are losing things at twice the rate they are finding them. Haven't we all had the experience of losing things that we know deep down we will never recover? Depending on the situation, we can feel disappointed, heartbroken, hopeless, or simply discouraged by our own inability to keep up with things. Isn't it a wonderful relief to know that we will never fall into the 'Lost Forever' category? Isn't it reassuring to know that God will never give up on us? Let us include a word of thanks in our prayers this week to acknowledge how grateful we are for that kind of gracious love. (Staff, www.Sermons.com)
16) God Loves Me: There is a wonderful story about Maya Angelou. She is an active member now of Glide Memorial United Methodist Church in San Francisco. She wrote that years ago when she first came to San Francisco as a young woman she became sophisticated. She said that was what you were supposed to do when you go to San Francisco, you become sophisticated. And for that reason, she said she became agnostic. She thought the two went together. She said that it wasn't that she stopped believing in God, just that God no longer frequented the neighborhoods that she frequented. She was taking voice lessons at the time. Her teacher gave her an exercise where she was to read out of some religious pamphlet. The reading ended with these words: "God loves me." She finished the reading, put the pamphlet down. The teacher said, "I want you to read that last sentence again." So, she picked it up, read it again, this time somewhat sarcastically, then put it down again. The teacher said, "Read it again." She read it again. Then she described what happened. "After about the seventh repetition I began to sense there might be some truth in this statement. That there was a possibility that God really loves me, Maya Angelou. I suddenly began to cry at the grandness of it all. I knew if God loved me, I could do wonderful things. I could do great things. I could learn anything. I could achieve anything. For what could stand against me with God, since one person, any person, with God form a majority now." (Mark Trotter, Collected Sermons, www.Sermons.com)
17) Which Color Would You Be? Ralph Milton tells of the teacher who, for reasons of her own, asked the kids one day, "If all the bad children were painted red and all the good children were painted green, which color would you be?" Think about it. What color would you be? Red or Green? It is a tough question isn't it when you pose only two options. One very wise child answered the teacher: "Striped." The reason I am going on about this point is simple. It seems to me that in the frame of the story - everyone but Jesus is striped. It is the same in the world today. We are a curious combination of the lost and the found. We are striped. We are, in some sense, not completely complete. It is hard language, this language of lost and found, especially for folks in the middle, as most of us are most of the time. It seems too absolute. Rarely are we completely lost. And rarely are we completely found. There is always a part of us that needs to be dragged and cajoled into the light, and there is always a part of us that is already there in the light. For some it is more and for some it is less, but always some part. The wonderful thing is - that God wants us to enter fully into the light. The wonderful thing is that God wants to bless us all richly to keep us safe, to make us strong, to help us be like a Shepherd who really cares for his sheep, or like a poor widow who really values all her coins. (Richard Fairchild, Seeking the Lost).
18) “Create him, Lord.” The love of God is indescribable. But an old Jewish legend does a pretty good job at describing God’s merciful and forgiving love. It describes what happened when God created man. The legend says that God took into counsel the Angels that stood about his throne. The Angel of Justice said: “Create him not ... for if You do, he will commit all kinds of wickedness against his fellow man; he will be hard and cruel and dishonest and unrighteous.” The Angel of Truth said: “Create him not ... for he will be false and deceitful to his brother and even to Thee.” The Angel of Holiness stood and said: “Create him not ... he will follow that which is impure in your sight and dishonor You to Your Face.” Then stepped forward the Angel of forgiveness and Mercy. “Create him,” she prayed. “Create him in Your own noble image and as the object of Your love. When all Your other ministers forsake him. I will be with him. I will lovingly aid him and touch his heart with pity. I will make him forgiving and merciful to the unfortunate and to those weaker than himself.” And so, God decided to create man. (Talmud).
19) Joy of reconciliation: This story took place when I was a teenager. My father, who was seriously ill, emotionally vulnerable and exceedingly sensitive, had an argument with my brother who was going through the pains of a teenage crisis. I do not remember what the conflict was about, but the mutual hurt it generated is forever etched in my memory. My weeping brother packed up his clothes and, before running away from home, advised me to take care of our beloved father and mother. A sense of sadness pervaded each family member. In the afternoon, my mother went to look for my brother. After many moments of anxious searching, my mother finally found him. She pleaded and prevailed upon him to come home. My father was very relieved to see him again safe and sound. My brother was equally happy to be home. It was a moment of joy for all. Indeed, the grace of reconciliation is a cause for rejoicing. (Lectio Divina).
20) For a shepherd to save one erring soul is recompense enough: How intense the joy of a parent whose little one has wandered off, when the child has finally been recovered, safe and sound! In today’s parable, Jesus depicts the joy of a spiritual shepherd who has anxiously sought out and finally rescued a stray soul. For a shepherd to save one erring soul is recompense enough. An American Franciscan priest, Father Sixtus O’Connor, had the privilege of saving more than one of the Nazi war criminals condemned at the Nuremberg Trials of 1946. According to the National Catholic News Service, Fr. O’Connor, who had been a parish priest in Manhattan, served during World War II as a U.S. Army chaplain in Germany. He had studied earlier in universities there and spoke German fluently. It was doubtless because of this fluency that he was retained in service after the close of the war and assigned as chaplain to the Nazi war-criminals imprisoned in the Nuremberg jail while they awaited trial. The prisoners came to respect this man of God because of his realism, Faith, serenity and compassion. Among the prisoners were found men who had held high positions in Nazidom: Baldur von Schirach head of the Nazi youth movement; Hans Fritzsche, deputy minister of propaganda; Hans Frank, Governor of Nazi-held Poland; and Ernst Kaltenbrunner, in charge of the Austrian Gestapo. Through prayer and patient discussion, Fr Sixtus had the happiness of changing the hearts of these four major leaders. Von Schirach, a lapsed Catholic, sentenced to 20 years in prison, returned to devout Catholicism. Herr Fritzche lived to praise the priest in memoirs. Kaltenbrunner was grateful for the priest’s defense when the Allied officials called him a total liar. He and Hans Frank made peace with God before they were hanged. Frank, bound for the gallows, offered his life in atonement for his sins. What must have been Fr. O’Connor’s gratitude to God at that moment. And on the day that Hans Frank died contrite, how great must have been the “joy in heaven.” (Fr. Robert F. McNamara).
21) "Tony, Tony, turn around. Something's lost that must be found." The tradition of invoking St. Anthony's help in finding lost or stolen things traces back to a scene from his own life. As the legend goes, Anthony had a book of psalms that, in his eyes, was priceless. There was no printing press yet. Any book had value. This was his book of psalms, his prayer book. Besides, in the margins he'd written all kinds of notes to use in teaching students in his Franciscan Order. A novice who had already grown tired of living a religious life decided to leave the community. Besides going AWOL, he also took Anthony's Psalter! When he went to his room to pray and found it missing, Anthony prayed it would be found and returned to him. After he prayed this prayer, the thieving novice fleeing through the forest, was met by a demon (okay, this part of the story is murky—how a negative could be an avenue of God's good). Anyway, the demon told the thief to return the Psalter to Anthony and to return to the Franciscan Order. He did and was accepted back. Soon after Anthony's death, people began praying through him to find or recover lost and stolen articles.
22) Prodigal Chosen People: Napoleon Bonaparte, the French Emperor, decided to campaign against Russia, in 1812. Napoleon was pushing on with preparations for war on a colossal scale. By the summer of 1812 he had about 750,000 men under arms of whom 450,000 were destined for the actual invasion. On 28 May this army of armies set out towards East. Immense stores were collected. Two million pairs of boots were held in reserve. The baggage was hauled by 18,000 heavy draft horses, the siege-guns and pontoons by 10,000 oxen. A million great coats had been bought. The army passed into Russia unopposed. As Napoleon reached Moscow, he had understood the mistake he had made. The marshals too were reluctant to march northwards. With the first fall of snow the story of the march became an epic of human misery; no food, no shelter, no fuel. Icy gales froze them and killed scores every night. History testifies that it was one of the great errors of Napoleon. Out of 450000 who had crossed into Russia only 20,000 marched back. If Napoleon had corrected himself 430,000 men who had crossed into Russia would not have lost their lives or pushed into misery. Or history gives evidence that such human errors have often proved fatal. The history of salvation too is a sum total of such errors, often willful, that have estranged man from God, and God’s interventions to make man aware of his mistakes and the offer of mercy. The first reading from the Book of Exodus narrates one of such errors committed by the chosen people by their worship of a golden calf. (Fr. Bobby Jose). (L/19)
“Scriptural Homilies” Cycle C (No. 47) by Fr. Tony: firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit my website: By clicking on http://frtonyshomilies.com/ for missed or previous Cycle C homilies,
141 Year of Faith “Adult Faith Formation Lessons” (useful for RCIA classes too) & 197 “Question of the Week.”
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