24th Sunday in Ordinary Time

My Dear People,

The three parables of the Gospel have a common link. 1. The shepherd losing one sheep would leave the ninety-nine and search for the lost one. 2. The woman who loses one coin and finds it rejoices. 3. The son who spends all his inheritance on dissolute living and then returns to the Father.  The link is that they were made whole, or restoration.                                   

In this Chapter St. Luke reports three of these parables in which Jesus describes the infinite mercy of God and his joy at the conversion of sinner.  The Gospel teaches that no one is excluded from forgiveness and sinners can become beloved children of God if they repent and are converted. So much does God desire the conversion of sinners that each of these parables ends with a  refrain as it were, telling of the great joy in heaven over every sinner who repents.  This is not the first time that publicans and sinners approach Jesus (cf. Mt. 9:10). They are attracted by the directness of our Lord’s preaching and by his call to self-giving and love. The Pharisees in general were jealous of his influence over the people (cf. Mt 26:2-5; Jn. 11:47), a jealousy which can also  beset Christians; a severity of outlook which does not accept that, no matter how great his sins may have been, a sinner can change and become a saint; a blindness which prevents a person from recognizing and rejoicing over the good done by others. Our Lord criticized this attitude when he replied to his disciples’ complaints about others casting out devils in his name: “Do not forbid him; for no one who does mighty work in my name will be able soon after to speak evil of me” (Mk 9:39).

Christian tradition, based on this and other Gospel passages, applies this parable to Christ, the Good Shepherd, who misses and then seeks out the lost sheep: The Word by becoming man seeks out mankind, which has strayed through sinning. Here is St. Gregory the Great’s commentary: “He put the sheep on his shoulder because, in taking on human nature, he burdened himself with our sins” (In Evangelia Homiliae, 2, 14).

In the third parable Jesus teaches once more that God is a kind and understanding Father. A son receives from his father the portion of the inheritance that is due to him and leaves home to squander it in a far country ‘in loose living’. At this point in the parable we are shown the unhappy effects of sin.  His memory of home and his conviction that his father loves him causes the prodigal son to reflect and to decide to set out on the right road.

Human life is in some way a constant   return through contrition, through the     conversion of heart which means a desire to change. God always hopes for the return of the sinner; he wants him to repent. When he arrives home, God greets him with    immense compassion. There is no doubt that this is an analogy: the figure of the father is revealed to us as God the Father.  God is waiting for us, like the father in the parable, with open arms, even though we don’t deserve it.

On September 2nd I visited the Hermitage where there is a painting of the Father   welcoming the prodigal son—a very famous painting by Rembrandt. This shows that the Father is very      merciful and is always waiting for us to return and be reconciled with Him, and we should not hesitate to go back to the Father and be reconciled, especially after we have sinned. This story by  Jesus of the forgiving Father is meant to encourage us to utilize the Sacrament of Confession. Our Father is very merciful,       however he cannot give us His mercy, if we do not go back to Him and show that we are sorry for our sins.

Yours in Christ,

Fr. Vincent Clemente


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