Mercy, confession, forgiveness. They are present in all of the readings of this Sunday. All of the readings remind us of Gods infinite Mercy towards His children. In the first, the Lord has delivered the Hebrews from slavery. As Moses converses with God atop the mountain those people regress to their old ways, they build a golden calf for worship. Old habits die hard. The Lord warns Moses of the transgression, and Moses pleads on that flocks behalf. God is a Merciful God and forgives their transgression. Ex 32:7-11, 13-14 Those sinners are able to move past that sin and continue their journey towards the grace of God. Moses acknowledged what they had done was wrong, he did not try to justify a sin. Mercy, confession, and forgiveness. God is a merciful God that allows people to move from sin towards grace.
Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness;
in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense.
Thoroughly wash me from my guilt
and of my sin cleanse me.
Paul in his epistle acknowledges his sin. Paul was a persecutor of Christians. He was present at the stoning of Saint Stephen. In his letter Paul confesses his arrogance, he also confesses the faith he had discovered in Jesus Christ. It is in that faith that he preaches Christs gospel to others that once were unbelievers. Paul does not remain stuck in unbelief, and he does not remain condemned for his unbelief. He does not remain condemned because of his condemnation of Christians. He is able to continue his journey, he can move from darkness to light. Through the mercy of Jesus Christ he is forgiven. Dark to light, and sin to grace. 1 Tm 1:12-17
A clean heart create for me, O God,
and a steadfast spirit renew within me.
Cast me not out from your presence,
and your Holy Spirit take not from me.
This is what Jesus in the Gospel argues with the Pharisees. A God of infinite mercy who offers forgiveness is the God that Jesus preaches, it is not necessarily the one that the Pharisees recognize. The Pharisees see Jesus associating with the sinners, and to them these sinners are the condemned. To those Pharisees the sinners have offended God, and because of that were condemned. Often irrevocably and that is a curse. To them Mercy and forgiveness are not apparent, and they fear the same vengeful curse. (The thing is a merciful and forgiving God is not a radical departure from their scriptures. Jeremiah, whom I have been reading, speaks of forgiveness. Gods mercy and forgiveness is etched throughout the Old Testament) It was the curse of the blind, and the crippled, and the leper. Vengeance versus mercy. Condemnation versus forgiveness. A God of wrath, and anger versus love and forgiveness. Jesus teaches of a God that goes after those that are lost and wounded, and a God that reaches out at all costs. That is a God of infinite mercy and forgiveness. God uncorrupted. Lk 15:1-32
O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.
My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit;
a heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.
The parable of the prodigal son also tells of two sons. The one that is disobedient and sinful, and the other that is sternly obedient. The sinner confesses his sins, and is embraced by the father. The other, he is arrogant and jealous of the sinner. Jealousy and arrogance are sins, they also are sins that are neither recognized nor confessed by that so called good and obedient son. Parables have many interpretations. One for this of the prodigal sons is that Jesus likened the righteous obedient son to the Pharisees. The Pharisees and Sadducees and Temple Priests and Scribes were the people’s conduit back towards God. The problem though was that they often functioned more as a roadblock to God, putting one barrier after another between God and man. Jesus wanted them to notice this, and to notice their own behavior in that righteous and arrogant son. He did not wish them to become like the sinner, but like the father that reaches out in an effort to bring that wayward soul back to the kingdom.
Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time