Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Homily 24th Sunday Ordinary Time Year C–The Joy of Reunion

Do you remember a time when you lost a child in a department store or an amusement park or a time when you got lost yourself as a child? If you were like me, you were walking along with your siblings until something flashy caught your eye and you thought, “Oooh!” Then you suddenly remember you’re supposed to be with some other people! You look around and when you realize no one is there you get that terrible, horrible feeling in your stomach. You franticly look from one aisle or path to the next and finally, at the end of the store or across the park you spot mom or dad in the distance. The sudden surge of joy, a truly Christian Joy, is the greatest feeling in the world! This feeling explains why Jesus eats with the tax collectors and the sinners.

This is the feeling that God has when sinners repent, the feeling of a Father who has finally found his lost child. And to be sure it is our feeling too, when we are reunited with Him. Our Lord is the Mediator of this Joy. The Pharisees accused him of being a little too friendly with the sinners. But, in order to lead sinners to the Joy of Reconciliation with their Father, he must necessarily spend time among them, dining with them, listening to them, and calling them to Himself.

The Joy of Reunion and Reconciliation is a Joy that the Father feels even for just one child. Furthermore, he rejoices more over one recovered child than he does over having his other children always with Him. This is similar to the experience of a mother who feels much greater joy over finding a lost child than she does over having her other three walking peacefully beside her. It is because of this Joy that He can leave “the 99,” so to speak, and go in search of the one “lost sheep.” It is because of this Joy that He searches like the woman in the Gospel who lost one of her ten coins, each equaling a day’s pay, because each means so much to her.

God’s Mercy does not let Him forget the one that is lost. The woman did not say, “Oh, I will not worry about the one last coin, I still have 9 others.” And the shepherd did not say, “Oh, I will not worry about the one lost sheep, I still have 99 others.” God’s Mercy remembers the Joy of Reunion. As the prophet Ezekiel proclaimed, “’Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked,’ declares the Lord God, ‘and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?’” (Ezekiel 18:23) This Joy and His Mercy causes Him to go out, to pursue us. We so often concern ourselves with finding Him, looking for Him, searching for Him… but we forget that He is the one searching for us. The prophet Ezekiel also proclaimed, “For thus says the Lord God: Behold, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them” (Ezekiel 34:11-16).

Do we let ourselves be found? Do we get used to being away? This would be like a boy getting lost in the department store but then just getting used to the toy aisle, forgetting altogether the siblings he was with and even his parents. Do we hide while we are away, becoming obstinate in our being lost? Are we like the “stiff-necked” people described in the first reading, so-called because they refused the direction of their father Moses, like an ox who refuses the promptings of the plowman? They had been led miraculously out of slavery in Egypt and were brought to the foot of Mt. Sinai on whose peak Moses communicated face-to-face with God, learning His will for His people through the Ten Commandments. But, Moses took too long to come down the mountain and the people forgot all that God had done for them. They rejected God and lost themselves in idol worship, attributing to a golden calf the miracles of God. They would have persisted in this going astray, gotten used to their new god, had Moses not snapped them back to reality.

It is obstinacy that keeps us away or is it fear? Are we afraid of Him finding us? There is nothing to fear in our Heavenly Father finding us. There is only Joy in reunion and reconciliation with Him. Remember that He is more pleased over the grievous sinner sincerely repenting than he is over the minor sinners who repent often! He is definitely more pleased with all of his repentant children than He is with those who think that they have nothing to repent of, no sins to confess.

Moses implored God’s Mercy on the people who had lost themselves in idol worship, he prayed for them, he interceded for them, and God was indeed merciful. Jesus, the New Moses still pleads for God’s People at the Right Hand of the Father. We said in the Penitential Rite, “You were sent to heal the contrite of heart, Lord have mercy. You came to call sinners, Christ have mercy. You are seated at the right hand of the Father to intercede for us, Lord have mercy.” He intercedes for us and He searches for us as he did for the tax collectors and sinners. He looks for you in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Does he find you there? Does he find your children and grandchildren there? Will you help them to feel the Joy of God’s Mercy too? Or will they miss out on this Joy because they have no one to take them? He came into the world to save sinners. He saves us and our families through the sacraments. Will we let Him?

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