Mercy, Confession, Forgiveness.

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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
Lectionary: 132

parables

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The disciples approached Jesus and said,
“Why do you speak to the crowd in parables?”

Parables are interpreted, they are puzzles. One can think they understand, and a moment later try to answer another quizzical question. They have different meanings to different people, and they can have a different meaning to the same person at a different time or circumstance. They are intended to be that way, almost immediately understood and then questioned again. They encourage wonder and amazement, they challenge and beg for dialogue; and that is precisely how one should approach God. It is with amazement and understanding and an open mind.

Thursday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Saturday of the Second Week of Lent

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He eats with tax collectors and sinners,  that is something the Pharisees do not understand. Pope Francis said you must get among the flock, smell the sheep. The Good Shepherd tells the parable of the prodigal son. That prodigal  son did not get among the sheep, he wallowed with the swine, the unclean. The horror of the Pharisee. Emphasize horror and emphasize unclean. Cultural relevance.Exclamation point.  That son, covered in the dung of the swine, welcomed by the father yet belittled by his brother. Is that brother the Pharisee, the one who wishes to remain clean?

Jesus got close to the sinner, not to be like them, but to heal. To heal required He draw them in close. The Shepherds crook, that is precisely its purpose. To hook around them so that one might pull a member of the flock close, especially a member that might tend to run the other way. To remove some burs, a splinter, or salve a wound. To shepherd, to walk where they walk, to guide, and to bandage some wounds. A sin is a wound, and often a sinner is lost. That’s why He eats with tax collectors and sinners. Proclamation point. Proclaim the gospel, even to the taxman. Even to the sinner. The Father calls out to the prodigal son . But He does more that call, He sends His Son. The Good Shepherd to gather those wallowing in the swine’s mud.The Pharisees though had a different plan, and they did not care to use that crook. For them they used the other end of the cane. The spiked end designed to prod, poke, protect and also to to drive away. One waddles in mud and the other slings it. Prodigal Sons. Plural. He dines with tax collectors and sinners. The Pharisee was there too.

Mi 7:14-15, 18-20

Lk 15:1-3, 11-32

the parable of the 10 gold coins

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It is a familiar story, and so easy to focus on what is done and not done with those coins.Lk 19:11-28 Two servants utilize them, and one does not, it might be best at this point to read the parable. There starts a conversation of what we are to do with the resources we are given, but don’t we then miss the point? It is not about what we do with what we receive. Its not me, and it is not we. Its about who, and that is where the emphasis should be placed.  Its is about who gave us those resources, and what were  commanded to do with them. The King, not the servants. God, not man.

He called ten of his servants and gave them ten gold coins
and told them, ‘Engage in trade with these until I return.’

Its not that the first two servants of the parable utilized their resource wisely, and that the third did not. Its that the first two were obedient to the command given them, and the third was not. Obedience versus disobedience; faith versus doubt. Two obeyed the King, and one did not. Two listened, and did as they were told. The disobedient servant describes his master as stern, yet that same servant displays his arrogance and disobedience to the future king. How does one listen?

The first reading 2 Mc 7:1, 20-31 describes the faith and devotion the Maccabee’s followers had in their God. They were willing to face their own death and the death of their loved ones rather than be  disobedient to their Gods laws. That faith is mirrored in the gospel reading, the difference being that those in Jesus’s parable are rewarded for their faithfulness. Faith has both a price and a reward.

It happened that seven brothers with their mother were arrested
and tortured with whips and scourges by the king,
to force them to eat pork in violation of God’s law.

Another interesting part of both the story of the disciples of the Maccabee’s and the people in the parable is the way that both their stories progress. In the parable, the commandment is given in the opening of the story. The story then shifts focus onto those entrusted with the coins, and then returns to the Kings judgement.

The Maccabees story also opens with a defiant and victorious faithfulness of the Maccabees. They defeat those that want them to defile their faith. Their faith is their strength. The problem though is that as time progresses their mission looses its focus. It shifts from Gods kingdom to the Maccabee’s nation. As time progresses they glory in their victory, and perhaps loose sight of the faith that fueled their victory. They gradually loose their focus. Its a universal human frailty, as so many prophets remind us. It is the same shift in focus that occurs in the parable. The focus starts with the King, and gradually becomes about the servants. The King though does return, and that’s worth remembering. (Keep your eye on the ball,  your eye on the prize.)

Wednesday of the Thirty-third Week in Ordinary Time

 

Friday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time

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A person can always get into a bit of trouble when writing on a parable, especially if that person tries to explain the true meaning of those little stories. That trouble comes from the very design of the parable, first they are not intended to have only one true interpretation and second they tend to bring up as many questions as answers. They are designed to prompt one to think and ponder upon an easily remembered story. Both he sower and the mustard seed (Mk 4:26-34) are ones I have thought and rambled about in the past. Frequently my writing on the Mustard plant and its seeds border on botany lessons, and again today I will give a brief botanical description of one aspect of a Mustard Tree. In Jesus’s parable he describes it as “But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants.” The Mustard Tree can survive a variety of environments. It is salt tolerant, and can survive in both the arid desert and well watered soil. It can grow both in nutrient deficient rocky soil, and in the fertile field. When grown in a harsh environment such as the desert and rocky barren soil, it takes the shape of a gnarly indistinct shrub. Passers by would scarcely notice it. When planted near a stream or well watered and fertile soil it grows into a magnificent tree; a perfect place for the desert wander to find shade from a burning noontime sun.