Homilies – September
ARCHBISHOP CHRISTOPHER PROWSE
CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF CANBERRA AND GOULBURN
SUNDAY 11 SEPTEMBER 2016
TWENTY-FOURTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (YEAR C)
ST CHRISTOPHER’S CATHEDRAL, FORREST
Exodus 32:7-11. 13-14, 1 Timothy 1:12-17, Luke 15:1-32
We welcome in a particular way at our Mass today the 35 children who will be making their First Holy Communion during this Mass and their families. We also welcome the Italian community from Vicenza who are here on their region’s feast day.
To have so many young children here today brings out the innocence of children and the love that Jesus has for children. Particularly today, when they make their First Holy Communion, we hope that Jesus, the Bread of Life, will feed them with all that they need to be nourished in the future challenges that life will inevitably bring them.
In the midst of life’s challenges, the big question is as follows: What is the greatest challenge in life? When we look at the Scriptures, the greatest challenge is to love God with our whole heart, mind and soul, and to love our neighbour as ourselves. These are the words of Jesus Himself.
Though many things could be said about this, one thing can be said about the challenge to love from the point of view of God and also from the point of view of humanity.
The one thing that can be said is that humanity’s response to the vocation to love is inconstant, whereas God’s love for us is constant. We see this in the First Reading. God’s love for the people of Israel is being challenged. The criticism that the Lord speaks to Moses about His Chosen People is as follows: “They have been quick to leave the way I marked out for them.” The people of Israel lapse into worshipping many gods. To love the One God, wholly with the full mind and heart seems almost impossible to them! God is very angry with them, but he does not allow His anger to change the covenant He made with them. He recalls this promise He made to them: “I will make your offspring as many as the stars of heaven, and all this land which I promised I will give to your descendants, and it shall be their inheritance for ever.” God is constant in His love in the midst of human inconstancy.
This constant love of God for us can be seen as somewhat illogical!
We see this in the Gospel today.
It is the famous chapter in Luke, Chapter 15, where we have three well-know parables of the way God loves us. Each one seems to be, from the point of view of scientific humanity, quite illogical.
The first parable is of a shepherd who has one hundred sheep. When he loses one sheep, he leaves the other ninety-nine to look for the one that was lost. When he finds the sheep that was lost, he rejoices with his neighbours and friends. It is illogical, because he takes great risks in doing this. In leaving the ninety-nine sheep to find the one lost sheep, he might find himself losing ninety-nine!
Secondly, there is certain illogicality in the second parable of the woman with ten drachmas who loses one of them. She is determined to find that lost drachma. She sweeps out her house and searches thoroughly until it’s found. But then a strange thing happens. She calls together her friends and neighbours and says, “Rejoice with me, I have found the drachma I lost.” Presumably she arranges a party! I’m sure it would cost more that ten drachmas to put on a morning tea for her neighbours and friends! In finding one drachma she might lose twenty in the celebration!
Thirdly, there is the famous parable of the loving father with two sons. The two sons have got their problems!
The younger one seems to be hedonistic and very manipulative of the father. He even comes back to the father because he lost all his money, not necessarily because he is contrite.
The older one is self-righteous and indignant. He is highly envious of the way the father has treated the indolent younger son. He lets out an emotional outburst to the father and denigrates the father’s mercy towards the younger brother. He finds his father illogical.
Despite the inconstancy of the two brothers, the constancy of the father’s love for the two sons is unquestionable. There is that lovely expression at the end of the paragraph where the father pleads with the older son to see things from his point of view. The reason is as follows: “Because your brother here was dead and has come to life; he was lost and is found.”
So as we gather here for the First Holy Communion in this Year of Mercy, let us focus on the mercy of God. It is constant, it is forgiving, but at the same time it calls us to conversion. It is not simply enough to be forgiven and then sin again. We have to receive God’s forgiveness, but really try as best as we can to turn around our lives and convert to God’s way, not our own. We are to fight against an inconstant response to God.
St Paul alludes to this in the Second Reading. He tells the story of his journey of faith. It seems to summarise everything in today’s reading. He acknowledges that God’s mercy has brought him out of ignorance and that, “the grace of our Lord filled me with faith and with the love that is in Christ Jesus.”
Then St Paul gives us something that we can all memorise off by heart and take home today from this Mass. He prefaces it by saying, “Here is a saying that you can rely on and nobody can doubt.” He then gives us this motto for our lives in this Year of Mercy… “That Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”
So let us now join in the innocence of these children as they receive Jesus the Bread of Life for the first time in this Mass. Let us be cleansed in God’s merciful love from the Cross and start again with these young children to live a life that rejects inconstancy and bathes in the constancy of God’s love with us.