24th Sunday Year C
Theme of the week: Jesus goes out of His way to seek out that prodigal sinner. Is it me He is seeking?
The lead-up to this week’s First Reading, Ex 32:1-6 tells the story of how the Israelites, at the slightest sign of doubt, fashioned a golden calf out of their jewelleries and worshipped it. The Israelites made the golden calf out of their earthly possessions and worshipped it in preference to God. In today secular world, many of us are like the Israelites, worshipping our earthly possessions instead of God. This is a dangerous pursuit. While the pursuit of earthly possessions in itself is not a sin, we can easily fall into sin when our pursuit becomes an obsession. Obsession and over-indulgence will cause us to turn away from Christian living; to turn our back on our families, friends, humanities itself, and most important of all, God. As James warned us in Jas 4:2, “You want something and do not have it; so you commit murder. And you covet something and cannot obtain it; so you engage in disputes and conflicts”.
This is the mistake of the prodigal son in this week’s Gospel. In the parable, the second son asked the father for his inheritance while the father is still alive – an extremely disrespectful gesture. The son then squandered away the money in debauchery living before coming to his senses and decided to return to the father. When the father saw the son from afar, in spite of what the son has done, the father ran out to the son (verse 20); restored his full status as a son by bestowing on him a robe, ring and sandals (verse 22); and celebrated his return.
Such is the mercy of God, that he would leave behind his flock of 99 sheep to go out of his way to seek that one lost sheep (verse 4). Let us reflect on our own lives. Does the way I live, the way I treat others and the values I hold reflect Christian living? Have I drifted so far from God that I am Christian in name only? Am I that lost sheep in the parable? Is Jesus calling out to me to return to his fold? Or perhaps I am the elder son, who looked down on the brother, and was filled with self-righteousness and jealousy. The elder son too needs to return to the father, as the father invited him into the house. Be assured, the day a prodigal son returns to the father, “there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance” (verse 7).
Paul, the author of the Second Reading, was such a prodigal son. Before his conversion, Paul was a Pharisee who persecuted Christians. In fact, Paul was responsible for the death of Steven, the first Christian martyr. In the Second Reading, Paul shows great humility by readily admitting his sinfulness. Through the mercy of our Lord, Paul was redeemed and went on to become a great Saint. In spite of being a highly intelligent and spiritual person, Paul’s unreserving repentance gives us a great example in humility. If a great man like Paul can adopt such humility, in the face of our sins, who are we to hold on to our pride?
As we pray in the Lord’s Prayer, “forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us”. Peace be with you, brothers and sisters.