Homily 24th Sunday of Year C: Michael U. Udoekpo
Readings: Exodus 32:7-11, 13-14; Ps 51:3-4,12-13,17,19; 1 Tim 1:12-17 and Luke 15:1-32
God mercifully finds us
Today’s readings speak of the enduring mercy of God, our Father, who finds his children when they are lost. This is exemplified with the stories of Israel and Moses, Paul, the lost sheep, coin and the prodigal son.
Moses was sent by God in the Book of Exodus to approach Pharaoh so that he would let Israel, God’s children go. However difficult this mission would turn out to be, Moses successfully, patiently led Israel through the sea, and the wilderness to the foot of Mount Sinai. It was here, on the mountain, that Moses received the law, the commandments, and a covenant was established between God and Israel. A covenant of God's love and mercy- God's presence no matter what!
But before Moses could come down from the mountain the Israelite were once again lost to sin of apostasy, idolatry and worship of golden calf. God contemplated of punishing them except for the intercessory role of Moses “why O Lord, should your wrath blaze against your our own people whom you brought out of Egypt.” With this God relented when Israel atoned for their sins followed by the renewal or the rediscovery of the tablets, their relationship with God (Exod 34).
Same could be said of Paul in today’s second reading (1 Tim 1:12-17), whose past anti-Christian attitude we are familiar with. In Acts of the Apostles 26:9-11 Saint Paul, then Saul was lost in his persecution of the Christian communities until his conversion by intervention of divine mercy, manifested in the redeeming person of our Lord Jesus.
In gratitude to God’s mercy, Paul writes to Timothy, his missionary companion, “I am grateful to him who has strengthened me, Christ Jesus our Lord because he considers 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.”
Some of us get lost in our sins, our selfishness not because of our own faults, but because of one factor or the other. It could be our environment. It could be the type of company we keep. It could be the type of books we read. It could also be the type of movies we watch. It could be ambition or the wrong choices we make in life. Even political ideologies can make us loose track of the universal mercy of God.
But in the tender eyes and love of God there is always room to make- up, for a rediscovery, for atonement for a renewal. And this is again demonstrated in the three parables of today’s Gospel: the parable of the lost sheep, the parable of the lost coin and the parable of the lost son. In all these “losses” there is this image of merciful, concerned, caring owner who left everything to search for the lost item. At discovery they are all very happy and joyful.
For example, in the case of the Good Shepherd he left 99 other sheep to search for the only lost one sheep. The woman also left 9 coins to search for just a single coin. While the father’s joyous, celebrative response to the remorse and return of the prodigal son also shows that, though he had a lot including, animals, servants, another son, and perhaps children, he rather had invested so much thinking, emotions and prayers wishing his lost son returns. He says, to the angry first son, “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 fact, the many times we have gotten lost, our merciful God is the one who finds us. But although our God is a merciful God, who cares for each and everyone of us, the poor, the one lost sheep, the one lost coin, the lost son, gratitude to God as in the case of Paul is demanded of us, especially when God intervenes in our lives, when he finds us.
This last summer I was in Portugal with a group of pilgrims. I presided over Mass at the Church of Saint Anthony of Padua. It was interesting to notice how the pilgrims were conscious that Saint Anthony of is reputed as the patron saint of lost items. During the intercessory prayer, taken spontaneously there was a popular refrain, “Anthony Find us.” Clearly this also would highlight the fact that it is very easy for us to get lost in our anger, in our selfishness, inordinate ambition, materialism, appetite for violence, terrorism, war and sterility of the sense of the sacred.
But when God finds us we want to celebrate his love, his mercy, his everlasting covenant, his presence, his compassion and his redemption. And this is what we do each time we gather to celebrate the Holy Eucharist, which of course, is the sacrament of redemption, a sacrament of divine mercy and of God's everlasting presence among us.