TWENTY FOURTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
(Green) Cycle C/Year II (September 11, 2016)
Ex 32:7-11, 13-14/1Tm 1:12-17/Lk 15:1-32
The Pharisees and scribes would not have dealing with ordinary people who were not observant to the details of the law; much less to the sinners who were considered outcast from the temple. But Jesus showed a totally different attitude toward these kinds of people. He was always with the commoners; His apostles were fishermen and uneducated. Jesus always welcomed to His company the sinners whom He forgave and healed.
For the people to understand His attitude toward the commoners and the sinners, Jesus told the parable of the lost sheep. In this parable, Jesus explained the sacrifice the shepherd undertakes in order to find the lost sheep and that after finding it, the shepherd rejoices together with the community. Jesus said that the heavens rejoice over the repentant sinner.
It is clear that the message of Jesus Christ in the gospel is the importance of repentance. For Jesus, the finding of the lost sheep was worth all the sacrifices of the shepherd; the salvation of the humanity was worth all His sacrifices on the cross; and the repentance of the sinners is worth all the sacrifices of the Church and her ministers. Since Jesus and His Church are doing their best to save the sinners, it simply means that the repentance and the salvation of the sinners are of supreme value. This supreme value is manifested in the words of St. John the Evangelist: For God so love the world that He sent his only begotten Son that whosoever would believe in Him should not perish but have eternal life (Jn 3:16). It is the great love of God towards humanity that makes the repentance and salvation of the sinners worth all the sacrifices of the shepherd and the Savior.
Indeed, God loves us and does everything in order to unite us in His love. We cannot imagine how God moves the whole universe only to make us feel His love for us. We have to respond to His love by repentance. Unless we repent and ask for forgiveness of our sinfulness especially through the sacrament of penance, we can never be in communion with Him in love. Repentance demands that we commit to avoiding sins and to living a new life. Confession is not the end of repentance. It is an expression of our deep sorrow for having offended the God of love and of our asking for forgiveness to the merciful God. After confession is the celebration of new life of grace granted through the sacrament. The shepherd celebrated together with the community right after the finding of the lost sheep. The father celebrated together with the family household right after the repentance of the prodigal son. Celebration must be a manifestation of the joy of new life and the commitment to live in accordance to such life of grace.
The parable of the lost sheep shows God’s invitation to each of us to come back to His loving presence and God’s initiatives in order to bring us back to Him. Truly, we can never be happy without God present in us. It now depends on us whether to heed His call or to go astray.