Thursday, September 13, 2007

This Man Receives Sinners--Reflections on the Readings for Sunday, September 16, 2007

September 16, 2007 Year C

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time/16th Sunday After Pentecost

Reflections on the Readings

By Dennis Hankins

Exodus 32:7-11, 13-14; Psalm 51:3-4, 12-13, 17, 19;

I Timothy 1:12-17; Luke 15:1-32

Theme:  This Man Receives Sinners

The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.

The message for us today is that the Son of man came to seek and to save the lost. This verse found in Luke 19:10 is the key verse in Luke.  I first heard this from Rosalind Moss, a Jew who became an Evangelical and is now a Catholic Apologist.  It struck me deeply when she with tears in her eyes explained that in Luke's gospel no one is beyond Jesus' reach.  And that is exactly what we find in today's Gospel and readings.  

That which was lost is found, making a moment of great joy.  Whether it is the parable of the lost sheep, the lost coin or the lost boy, Jesus reminds us of the joy in heaven over one sinner who repents.  And the Church from its beginning in Jerusalem has been doing what Jesus did, receiving sinners and eating with them.  It is good to remember that we are sinners saved by grace.  Even now in our state of grace we cannot say we have no sin.  The reminder of this occurs each time the Holy Spirit nudges us toward the confessional to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  That nudging is nothing less than Jesus seeking us out for closer fellowship and deeper rest in Him.  

The mission of Jesus in seeking and saving the lost has become the Church's ministry of reconciliation. (see here)  We continue what Jesus started, as ambassadors God [is] making his appeal through us. It is here, in the Church where the lost, the least and the lonely find a refuge.  It is here in the Church where sinners saved by grace invite sinners to be saved by grace.  It is here where sorrows are turned into joy and broken lives are made whole again.  It is here, as an oasis, the weary and the worried can drink from the Well of Living water and find rest for their souls.  

Heavens joy is our joy.  Every time a sinner comes home is a time for great joy.  And home is exactly what the heart far from home longs for.  It is homesickness that brings a sinner to his senses.  

Is there a place where tears are turned into joy?  Is there a place where sorrow is turned into peace?  Is there a place where the demons of lust can be expelled?  And the Church in the words of her Savior shouts for the entire world to hear:  Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for you souls. 

In the Church all who are found were once lost.  Very lost.  But as Scott Hahn is fond of saying, we are just beggars telling other beggars where we found the bread.  

There is a verse from a song from the Pentecostal church of my youth that I will close with.

Softly and Tenderly 

(Text & Music Will L. Thompson)

Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling, Calling for you and for me.  See, on the portals He's waiting and watching, Watching for you and for me.

Come home; come home. You who are weary come 

Home. Earnestly, tenderly Jesus is calling, Calling,

"O sinner, come home!"

Indeed, come home!  This Man receives sinners.

Let us pray:  Dear Jesus, you comfort the comfortless.  In your cross you have drawn all men unto yourself.  Today as before, you continue to forgive sins and welcome sinners into your fellowship.  May I never take your friendship for granted nor allow a sinner to remain friendless.  Amen.  

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