24th Sunday of Ordinary Time – Year C

Posté par diaconos le 11 septembre 2019

There will be joy in heaven for one sinner who converts 

There will be joy in heaven for one sinner who converts.png 300

From the Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke

At that time, tax collectors and sinners all came to Jesus to listen to him. The Pharisees and scribes recriminated against him : « This man welcomes sinners and eats with them! » Then Jesus said to them this parable : « If one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one, does he not abandon the other 99 in the wilderness to go and get the one that is lost, until he finds it ?

When he has found it, he takes it on his shoulders, all joyful, and, when he returns home, he gathers his friends and neighbours to say to them : « Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep, the one who was lost ! » I tell you: « This is how there will be joy in heaven for a single sinner who is converted, more than for 99 just women who do not need conversion.

Or, if a woman has ten pieces of silver and loses one, won’t she light a lamp, sweep the house, and carefully search until she finds it ? When she found her, she gathered her friends and neighbours together to say : « Rejoice with me, for I have found the silver coin I had lost !

So I tell you : There is joy before the angels of God for one sinner who converts. » Jesus said again : « A man had two sons. The youngest said to his father : « Father, give me my share of the fortune. And the father divided his property among them. A few days later, the youngest gathered everything he had, and left for a faraway country where he squandered his fortune by leading a life of disorder. He had spent everything, when a great famine occurred in this country, and he began to find himself in need.

He went to engage with a resident of that country, who sent him to his fields to guard the pigs. He would have liked to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs ate, but no one gave him anything. Then he went inside himself and said to himself : « How many of my father’s workers have plenty of bread, and I here am starving !

I will rise up, I will go to my father, and I will say to him : « Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.  » Treat me like one of your workers. He got up and went to his father. While he was still far away, his father saw him and was seized with compassion; he ran to throw himself at his neck and kissed him.

The son said to him : « Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. But the father said to his servants : « Quickly, bring the most beautiful garment to dress him, put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet, go get the fattened calf, kill him, let us eat and feast, for my son here was dead, and he came back to life; he was lost, and he is found. And they began to celebrate.

And the eldest son was in the fields. When he returned and was near the house, he heard the music and dances. Calling one of the servants, he asked about what was going on. He replied : « Your brother has arrived, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has found your brother healthy again. Then the eldest son got angry, and he refused to come in.

His father went out begging him. But he replied to his father : « I have been at your service for so many years without ever transgressing your orders, and you have never given me a kid to celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came back after eating your property with prostitutes, you had the fattened calf killed for him !

The father replied : « You, my child, are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was necessary to celebrate and rejoice ; for your brother here was dead, and he came back to life ; he was lost, and he is found ! » (Lk 15:1-32)

Homily

Jesus said this parable because some Pharisees were reluctant to see him welcome sinners and eat with them. In other circumstances, Jesus simply said that He came for sinners and not for the righteous. The Pharisees, like the eldest son in this account, considered themselves righteous, but did not know God’s mercy.

The younger son represents the sinners and tax collectors who frequented Jesus. After leaving his father in an act of ingratitude (verse 12), he fell into the worst decline for a Jew: keeping pigs (verse 15), those impure animals according to Jewish law. His return is not due to true repentance, but to the hunger that holds him back (verses 17-20a). It was precisely the sinners and the marginalized that Jesus frequented! (verse 1)

What a revelation for the Pharisees to learn that God rejoices in the return of the sinner to whom he has never refused his tenderness and love ! (verses 21-24)

As they are also recognized in the indignation of the eldest son: « I have been at your service for many years without ever disobeying your orders ». (verse 29a). Unfortunately, he was judged as a servant, not as a son (verse 19b). He was not even a brother, as his contemptuous remark shows: « Here is your son… ».  (verse 30a) that his father notes so discreetly: « Here is your brother. «  (verse 32b). And the party was in full swing for the return of this child.

Do we help the Church in her efforts to reach the unbelievers, the poor, those who are far away ? Joy or whisper ? Do we accept that our priest places us in the background of his concerns to reach those who do not come to him? Are we collaborating in this effort? Don’t we sometimes say that there’s nothing to hope for ?

Let us rejoice that those who have always felt marginalized, excluded and who probably live in disappointment and illusion, come to Jesus. No, the scribes and Pharisees did not understand that with Jesus came to an end the time when it was necessary to purify oneself to welcome the Lord, but the time begins when one becomes pure by welcoming the Lord. They didn’t understand it.

Thus Jesus told them this parable divided into three parts. The first part is that of the shepherd who lost a sheep and left the other ninety-nine to look for the lost: « When he found it, he took it on his shoulders, all happy. ». (Lk 15:1-32) This is the joy that characterizes this passage and the word « joy » and the verb « to rejoice » will be repeated.

What the Pharisees and scribes did not understand was that God, instead of being concerned about being obeyed and respected, was more concerned about people’s happiness. This is what the Lord has in his heart. And so, « all joyful, he took it on his shoulders… ». The lost sheep is the image of the sinner who has gone away. When the shepherd found it, he loaded it on his shoulders.

He called on all his friends to rejoice with him. He came back and was welcomed by his father, a maternal and loving figure. His father wanted to give this son back an authority he had never had before. Why is this the case ? Because God communicates love in an absolute way. His father, image of God’s love, rejoiced, his elder brother, image of the scribes and Pharisees, was scandalized.

Jesus ridiculed his eldest son’s behaviour by caricaturing how religion can infantilize people : « I have been at your service for many years without ever disobeying your orders, and you have never given me a child to celebrate with my friends. » (Lk 15:25-32) This old man was waiting for a reward, because he did not cooperate with his father’s action. The caricature of Jesus by the religious authorities of his time was very severe.

In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul states: « We are ambassadors of Christ, let yourselves be reconciled with God ». To become ambassadors of Christ, of his spirit of mercy, is to respond joyfully to God’s call to reconcile ourselves with one another. In this parable of the prodigal child, Jesus Christ reveals to us how God, our Father, is gratuitousness, gift, selflessness, love. Jesus revealed to us the true face of the Father. Just the opposite of an evil, jealous and wicked God. Prodigal father of love! Let us allow ourselves to be reconciled with God. Let’s apologize for our lack of trust and love. Amen

Michel Houyoux, permanent deacon

Supplementary information

Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost

The Gospel is truly good news revealed to people who know how to take their rightful place in the universe : these people recognize that they are creatures of God and therefore must constantly and humbly refer to their Creator. In short, we must recognize and integrate into our lives the following truth : « The creature without the creator vanishes » (GS, 36 §3). Dear young people, May Christ grant you abundantly the grace of humility and faith.

God loves us so much : « I loved Israel from his childhood, and to bring him out of Egypt, I called my son » (Hos 11, 1). We Christians, sons and daughters of the Church, the new Israel, God loves us as a good father, and also as a mother full of tenderness. God created the world out of wisdom and love. He created an orderly and good world. It transcends creation and is present to it; that is, God maintains and carries creation. God created everything through his son Jesus Christ. And it is precisely he who is sent to the world to reveal the secret of life and the Kingdom of Heaven.

As we celebrate the Sacred Heart of Jesus, let us stop for a moment to contemplate his love, the love that gives itself entirely. His love surpasses all understanding, his love challenges us. We are invited to have in our hearts maternal love, paternal love, fraternal love. Let us remember that Jesus gives us all his affection, all his attention as the book of the Prophet Hosea tells us. Let us not be ungrateful, let us not indulge in what is wrong.

May our ambitions never thwart the love that should characterize us towards ourselves, towards God and towards our neighbour. Let us never awaken demons of hatred, jealousy, greatness and pride that might tempt us. Let’s try not to disturb anyone. In all and everywhere, may the merciful love of Christ precede us.

Christ’s heart frees from the rivers of living water when it is pierced. Our hearts flow rivers of love when we give the full gift of our lives for the people we love.

External links to other sites

◊ Desiring God : click here to read the article  → The Happiest Days of Heaven

◊ Rick Renner : click here to read the article → Rejoicing in Heaven Over One Sinner Who Repents 

Bishop Thomas J said : « Jesus welcomes sinners and eats with them »

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