September 15, 2019 – 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time
A Reading from the Book of Exodus (32:7-11,13-14)
The LORD said to Moses,
“Go down at once to your people,
whom you brought out of the land of Egypt,
for they have become depraved.
They have soon turned aside from the way I pointed out to them,
making for themselves a molten calf and worshiping it,
sacrificing to it and crying out,
‘This is your God, O Israel,
who brought you out of the land of Egypt!’
“I see how stiff-necked this people is, ” continued the LORD to Moses.
Let me alone, then,
that my wrath may blaze up against them to consume them.
Then I will make of you a great nation.”
But Moses implored the LORD, his God, saying,
“Why, O LORD, should your wrath blaze up against your own people,
whom you brought out of the land of Egypt
with such great power and with so strong a hand?
Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac, and Israel,
and how you swore to them by your own self, saying,
‘I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky;
and all this land that I promised,
I will give your descendants as their perpetual heritage.’”
So the LORD relented in the punishment
he had threatened to inflict on his people.
A reading from the First Letter of Paul to Timothy (1:12-17)
I am grateful to him who has strengthened me, Christ Jesus our Lord,
because he considered me trustworthy
in appointing me to the ministry.
I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and arrogant,
but I have been mercifully treated
because I acted out of ignorance in my unbelief.
Indeed, the grace of our Lord has been abundant,
along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
This saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance:
Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.
Of these I am the foremost.
But for that reason I was mercifully treated,
so that in me, as the foremost,
Christ Jesus might display all his patience as an example
for those who would come to believe in him for everlasting life.
To the king of ages, incorruptible, invisible, the only God,
honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Luke (15:1-32)
Tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to Jesus,
but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying,
“This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
So to them he addressed this parable.
“What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them
would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert
and go after the lost one until he finds it?
And when he does find it,
he sets it on his shoulders with great joy
and, upon his arrival home,
he calls together his friends and neighbors and says to them,
‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’
I tell you, in just the same way
there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents
than over ninety-nine righteous people
who have no need of repentance.
“Or what woman having ten coins and losing one
would not light a lamp and sweep the house,
searching carefully until she finds it?
And when she does find it,
she calls together her friends and neighbors
and says to them,
‘Rejoice with me because I have found the coin that I lost.’
In just the same way, I tell you,
there will be rejoicing among the angels of God
over one sinner who repents.”
A friend of mine once posted of his Facebook account his thoughts, he said, “I am so tired of searching for God.” From his post, I seemed to feel that God seemed not to be found. He was searching for God as he said he felt empty within, he felt that he could not find joy. And God seemed to have lost his way!
How could that be possible? That was what I thought when he said that God seemed not to be found! It seems that we have this belief that it is us who are searching for God, it is us who has been looking for Him, yet, at the end, we surrender because we have never found God in our life.
The difficulty is when we are looking and searching for something or someone that has never been lost. It is very true with God. God has never lost his way. God stays with us and is always with us. Yet, a point in our life we claim that we were looking for him and did not find him.
Yes, we naturally look and search for something or someone that we have lost. But how could we find something if it is not lost after all? In fact, our search for God is useless because we tend to search God outside instead of recognizing Him in our very life.
Before I would proceed with my reflection, I would like to invite you first to listen to our Youth sharer today. Lovely Greganais an active member of our Redemptorist Youth Ministry who also volunteers as one of our members of the Youth Mission Team here in the Parish. So, let us welcome Lovely as she shares to us her experiences of God.
Sharing of Lovely
Since I was a little child, I & my siblings used to tease each other, throw things and make faces until the other one cries and be scolded by our mom over it. These scenarios are very common in most households today. My childhood was really awesome and memorable because from those experiences I become who I am today. Indeed, I am a product of Flores De Mayo, Sunday schools, Catechesis, being a Youth President, and now as a member of the Youth Mission Team.
Yet, as I grew up too, the relationship that I & my older sister developed has become colder and farther. There seemed to be a barrier that kept us away from each other. I noticed that we tend to forget the pieces of those memorable past that made us who we are today. We have become busy to the point of not minding each other. We have even forgotten to stop and thank God for the many blessings.
Thus, as years passed by, misunderstandings, feelings of being unloved, and fighting over small things were the reasons why I see the world as a burden and not as a blessing. I took for granted the gifts that God has given to me. These are the gifts of life, friends and most importantly the gift of family.
The bond that I & my sister built vanished gradually. I would describe it as a lamp that flickered in the dark and suddenly it turned off. Perhaps, I just saw the struggles that she encountered and not doing anything to help her. Maybe, I was just used to pretend that everything was perfectly fine even if it was not. But I realized, I have taken her for granted to the point of becoming indifferent towards my sister.
Little did I know, my sister felt alone and helpless. There were days that Ate would just want to sleep and wish that she would never wake up. It was a nightmare for my family. I was devastated as a sister. I thought that I would lose her at any time. But, I just knew that it was a wake-up call from God, that I should reflect on things for me to learn & grow. I felt sorry for not being good enough as a sister, daughter, and a friend. I also felt sorry for growing indifferent towards her.
And by acknowledging my own indifference and hurtful attitude towards those whom I love, I realized that I am in need of mercy and forgiveness. This is where I find God most merciful to me. I realized too, that deep within me, I love my sister and have been longing for her. With this realization, it moved me to surrender to God all the burdens that we carry as a family. As I leaned on God, I found my strength.
And being active in the Youth Ministry helped me a lot by making myself grounded in my faith and in touch with my own reality. This is how I discovered how Jesus’ love, acceptance, and forgiveness for me has freed me from every chain of anger, doubts, self-pity & brokenness. I am just filled with gratitude to God for the wonder he had done in our family and in my life. The trials and the failures I had were in fact opportunities for me to be found by God.
Now I have understood that some mistakes take us to places that God had already prepared, not to hurt us but to teach us that His plans are greater than anything else. It’s never been too late to start again nor too late to let God reach us. He listens and waits 24/7.
What we have just heard is a personal testimony of the power of God working in our troubled and wounded relationships. Indeed, those times of trials in the family make us realize and value more the presence of each one. And as Lovely shared to us, it is when we decide to lean on God that we also find our strength. Yes, it is when we allow God to touch us that we are being healed, and allowing God to search us that we are found.
St. Paul recalls this story of his life. His past life of being a blasphemer, persecutor and arrogant made him so lost. It was a denial of God. Yet, God continued to search for Paul until they had an encounter. Paul’s encounter with Jesus turned Paul’s life completely because when Jesus found him, the Lord was so merciful to him.
That experience of mercy led Paul to gratitude. And that gratitude inspired him to give glory to God by becoming a minister and servant of the Gospel.
Moreover, in the parable, Jesus also tells us of the shepherd who sought the lost until he found the lost sheep and a woman who lost her coin and searched for it until she found it.
This image of God tells us of a God who searches for the lost. Thus, God never lost His way. In fact, it is us who will be lost. We are the sheep in the stories who are driven by our selfish desires.
Is it not that we tend to be unmindful and unconscious of many things in life except for our personal desires and wants, except with those that will give us comfort and pleasure? This has been the experience of Lovely when relationships are taken for granted.
We might be full of ourselves, of what others can give us and of what is only beneficial to us without minding the needs of others. Like the sheep, we might also drift to the other side thinking that there is more security in addictions and vices, in depression and loneliness. So, we stray away from the comfort of our brothers and sisters, and from the very presence of God.
These attitudes of ours are basically refusal of God’s invitation. And our reasons? We have other priorities. Thus, this reminds us of our passive, complacent and indifferent attitudes towards our relationships and the many invitations of God.
Nevertheless, God never tires to invite us again. God invites us to be with Him, to join with Him and enjoy His abiding presence in our sacraments, in our liturgy and in our daily prayers, and in our community.
Jesus teaches us of a God who invites us and searches for us not just once but in every opportunity in our life. And this is the truth; it is God who has been searching and inviting us. He has been looking for us and he patiently waits for us to allow him to find us. God takes the risk of being rejected. But though he has been rejected many times he never lost his confidence to invite us again and again.
Thus, let us allow God to search for us and to allow him to find us. It is in this attitude that we will be able to listen to his many invitations and will inspire us to say YES to him. To say Yes and to affirm his invitation to recognize his presence in our life and with others. And when we are able to recognize him, then we will truly be joyful; our hearts will be filled with love of God, as St. Paul says to us. Hinaut pa.
Jom Baring, CSsR