Today’s readings remind us that in this life moments may come when we are down, but, as Our Lord reminds the Pharisees in today’s Gospel, with his help we are not out.
In today’s First Reading the freshly minted people of Israel falls into idolatry almost immediately after entering into a covenant with the Lord by making and worshiping a golden calf, something worthy of condemnation. The Lord had revealed himself to Moses and send Moses and Aaron to liberate them from Egypt and become a people. The Lord sounds out Moses about whether a “do over” was called for: should the idolaters be punished, and a new people be founded on Moses? It is a testimony to Moses’ famous humility that he did not accept the invitation to become another patriarch. It would have gone contrary to the promises he and the Israelites had heard for generations: countless descendants from the patriarchs and a land to call their own. The people of Israel were down, but, thanks Moses’ intercession and the Lord’s mercy, they weren’t out.
In today’s Second Reading St. Paul recalls when he was down, but thanks to the Lord’s mercy he was not out. He remembered very well when he persecuted the Christians and, as a result, persecuted the Lord. We can only imagine how Our Lord looked down upon him as he took the completely wrong direction in life, persecuting the disciples. Paul was struck down on the road to Damascus because the direction he was taking was so mistaken that the Lord in his mercy chose to intervene. Paul could have gone down anonymously in history as just another sinner redeemed by Our Lord, but the Lord had bigger plans for him, making him an apostle and a witness to the fact that when we’re down we’re never out as long as we live.
The Pharisees and scribes criticized Jesus in the Gospel today because he is spending time with people who are sinners: tax collectors, who robbed them by charging unfair taxes and serving their Roman oppressors, and sinners, who did evil and did not come worship at the Temple. So Jesus asks the Pharisees and scribes to think of how happy they would be if they found something valuable that they’d lost.
Imagine if you lost your spending money for the week, and after searching and searching your locker you give up and take your books to class and there it is, stuck between two books! Wouldn’t you be happy? Imagine if you lost your cat and you searched for hours and hours and came home sad and suddenly heard him scratching at the door to be let in. Wouldn’t you be happy? Now imagine if it were your brother or sister or aunt or someone in your family who went missing. You would never stop looking. Never. You would always be waiting to hear from them.
In Heaven God knows that sinners are lost, and he wants to find them so badly, but they hide from him and go far away from him, just like the son in the Gospel today. Like the Father of the Prodigal Son, God waits and waits for them to come back. Our Lord teaches us that all of Heaven shouts for joy when a sinner is found and comes back and gets on the road to Heaven again. Our Lord goes to the sinners in the Gospel today because if he doesn’t help them find God the Father again, they will never find him. Like the son today in the Gospel, they go far away and become poor and miserable, but when they come back, sorry for what they have done, all of Heaven is happy and God welcomes them back as if nothing had happened.
When we hurt others, it is so hard to say we are sorry, but when we don’t, we are left poor, alone, and lonely, because it is like we have left someone in our family. The other son in the Gospel today didn’t want to forgive his brother and look how angry and alone he was. The Prodigal Son, the tax collectors, and the sinners in today’s Gospel were all down, but the Lord was ready to pull them back onto their feet again.
When we do bad things, all we have to do is say we’re sorry and ask God to forgive us. It is not complicated, even though it may be costly at times. Go have a good Confession for the big things. For the little daily things, just tell him (and whoever else you’ve hurt) that you are sorry. If you remain down in this life (and the next, for that matter) it is because you didn’t take the Lord’s extended hand to pull you back onto your feet.
Readings: Exodus 32:7–11, 13–14; Psalm 51:3–4, 12–13, 17, 19; 1 Timothy 1:12–17; Luke 15:1–32. See also 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C, 4th Sunday of Lent, Cycle C, 2nd Week of Lent, Saturday, and 31st Week in Ordinary Time, Thursday.