Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 12, Luke 15:1-32
The English word ridiculous comes from the Latin word ridere and means “to laugh”. Something that is ridiculous is absolutely laughable; there is just no way it could be true, no way it could really happen. This word is applicable to all three of the parables contained in the Gospel selected to be read on the Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time. These three parables form a unit. Two of them (the parable of the lost coin and that of the lost son) are found only in the Gospel of St. Luke. The main figure in each parable is a Christ figure, e.g. the shepherd, the woman searching for the coin, and the father of the lost son. The object of each parable (the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son) represent the sinner. Notice, too, that the value for each object increases as the parables go on, beginning with the sheep, the drachma and finally the man’s son. And the point for all three parables is the same: God’s love for his created creatures is so great that it even extends to those who reject him and sin against his commandments; for those who have no place for him in their lives. And the point of all these parables is absolutely ridiculous. Who could possibly love someone who does not love them, who couldn’t care less about them. This is ridiculous nonsense!
In the first parable, the shepherd has 100 sheep in his flock. One is lost and he leaves the 99 in the desert to fend for themselves amidst the wolves and other predators while he goes off in search of the lost sheep. Nonsense! No shepherd in his right mind would do this.
In the second parable, a woman has 10 coins and loses one of them. She literally turns her home upside down to find the one, and then when she finds it throws the biggest party in town over her discovery. Nonsense!
And it is the same thing in the final parable about the lost son. The son asks for his share of the property of the father. The Greek word used for property here is Bios = life or living, and the meaning here is that the father owns the property and it is his to give away or not. His property represents his very life and this he chooses to give away to his son who heedlessly spends it all on nothing. Truly, a horrendous sin. And the son knows it, as we see in his repentance speech he prepared: Father, I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Yet, despite all of this, his father bestowed on him the gifts of cloak, ring, and sandals which signify his sonship. He returned everything to him as though nothing had happened! And over and above all this, the father then forgives even the elder son who is blind to his father’s forgiveness and goodness.
Who could possibly have such a love for his ungrateful creatures? Only God, the Father of us all. God so loved you and me that he gave his only Son to die in recompense for our sins! Wow!! Let us spend some time today in thanksgiving to our heavenly Father.
Monday of the Twenty-Fourth Week in Ordinary Time
September 13, Luke 7:1-10
In our Gospel for today’s Liturgy, Jesus cures the servant of a centurion who was ill and about to die. The centurion sent some Jewish elders to Jesus to ask him to come and save the life of the servant. It is interesting to note the errors made by the elders in asking Jesus for this favor. The Gospel reads: “They approached Jesus and strongly urged him to come, saying, “He deserves to have you do this for him.”” The elders mistakenly believed, as do many of us, that the good we do makes us deserving and worthy of God’s favors. I hope we realize this is not so. We have said time after time that God’s grace is a freebie. We do not earn it, we do not deserve it. God gives it to all free of charge.
Once again, as in so many of Jesus’ healings, it is the faith of the person that gets Jesus’ attention, and in today’s Gospel Jesus didn’t even go to the servant to cure him.
Let us bring our needs before the Lord today. He will in some way make things better.
Tuesday of the Twenty-Fourth Week in Ordinary Time
September 14, John 3:13-17
Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross
Today the Church celebrates one of its main symbols: the cross. The cross is quite literally everywhere. And it is a powerful symbol. Remember, a symbol is a little more than a sign, even though they are sometimes used to mean the same thing. A sign does not cause what it signifies, e.g. smoke is a sign of fire, but does not cause the fire. A symbol, on the other hand, does cause what it symbolizes, e.g. the American flag is a symbol of patriotism and it causes patriotism in those who look upon it thoughtfully.
The cross is a reminder of the necessity of suffering in our lives and causes an acceptance and even joy in the face of our own human suffering. My sojourn into the disease of alcoholism for some 20 years was a source of great suffering in my life. But today that lapse brings me great joy because it is out of my alcoholism that I am what I am today – and that is good! The cross can also be a symbol of Christ in my life, a symbol of pride in being a Christian and a follower of Christ, a symbol of direction in my life, a symbol of the guiding value and ethical standards of my life. And on and on.
What does the cross symbolize to you?
Wednesday of the Twenty Fourth Week in Ordinary Time
September 15, John 19:25-27
Our Lady of Sorrows
Today the Church honors Mary, Mother of God, under the title of Sorrowful Mother. Devotion to the seven sorrows of the Blessed Virgin goes back to the early 14th century. The number and their names varied through history until they became standardized to the fixed number today. The seven sorrows are as follows: meeting Simeon in the Temple, the journey to Egypt, the loss of Jesus in the Temple, the carrying of the cross, the crucifixion, taking Jesus down from the cross, and his burial. This feast was extended to the whole Latin Church by Pope Benedict XIII in 1727. Since 1913 it has been celebrated on September 15.
Mary, Mother of Sorrows, pray for us.
Thursday of the Twenty-Fourth Week in Ordinary Time
September 16, Luke 7:36-50
Today’s Gospel passage is named “The Woman of Loving Gratitude” in my Commentary and “The Pardon of the Sinful Woman” in my Bible. In so many encounters of Jesus with someone, we hear the words of Jesus: “Your faith has saved you”. Today, it is the great love of the woman for Jesus that gives rise to the miracle of his forgiveness.
Jesus went to eat at Simon’s house. Simon was one of the leading Pharisees. While he was at table, a woman with the reputation of a sinner, stood weeping behind Jesus and washed his feet with her tears, dried them with her hair, and anointed them with precious oil. Simon did nothing in the way of hospitality to welcome Jesus to his home. The woman, whom Simon called a sinner, proved to be the more hospitable of the two, and this gives rise to Jesus forgiving her for whatever it was she was guilty of.
When is the last time we explicitly, out loud, told Jesus we love him? We all like to hear those words. I imagine Jesus does, too.
Friday of the Twenty-Fourth Week in Ordinary Time
September 17, Luke 8:1-3
On September 8 of last week we celebrated the Birth of the Blessed Virgin and on that day we read in part of the Gospel for the day, the genealogy of Jesus from the Gospel of Matthew. And in that genealogy there were the names of four women. This first shows the importance of women in the salvation history and the extraordinary manner of the coming of the Messiah. “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means, “God is with us””.
Today’s Gospel selection makes further mention of the women disciples who followed Jesus. Luke refers to Mary Magdalene as “one from whom seven demons had gone out”. What is meant by the “seven demons” is unclear. We do not know. There is no record in the Scriptures of Jesus having performed any exorcisms over her. The other evangelists do not name these women disciples until their telling about the death of Jesus on the cross. These women remained with Jesus through the time of his resurrection from the dead. These women were among the most loyal disciples, and so it remains today. I think we can place each of our mothers in this group of women disciples. Where would we be without moms’ discipleships? The answer to this question for me is: not very far!
Jesus, thank you for the influence of our mothers in our lives.
Saturday of the Twenty-Fourth Week in Ordinary Time
September 18, Luke 8:4-15
Once again in today’s Gospel we have the parable of the Sinner. This parable seems to come up on the agenda rather often. The closing sentence of today’s Gospel is important for us to read often: “But as for the seed that fell on rich soil, they are the ones who, when they have heard the word, embrace it with a generous and good heart, and bear fruit through perseverance”.
Let this remind us once again to listen closely to the word of God. Let us embrace it and try our very best to do it. Remember the words of Jesus: “Happy are they who hear the word of God and keep it”. If we are happy today, this is a pretty good sign we are doing it correctly.