Wednesday, September 1, 2010

I Love You

Reflections on the Readings
Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time - September 12, 2010 - Year C
Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost
By Dennis S. Hankins

I Love You

The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.  And I am the foremost of sinners... St. Paul

"I love you!"  That's what Calvary says.

There's a lot of lostness in today's readings.  Israel lost her way, making for herself a molten calf, worshipping it, and sacrificing to it.  "This calf is now your God, your deliverer," Israel proclaimed!  Paul describes his blasphemous life before Christ.  And Jesus speaks of a lost sheep, a lost coin, and a lost son.

Jesus came to seek and to save the lost. Jesus came into the world to save sinners. In fact, St. Paul says, "I am the foremost of sinners; but I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience for an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life." In other words, Paul says, "If God is merciful to me, who in life blasphemed and persecuted and insulted him, he will be merciful to anyone."

Jesus' stories today describe the intensity of heaven's love; a love he wants us to embrace for the souls of those he died for.  Paul embraced Jesus' love for all people in his efforts to make him known, he whom Paul knew intimately.  

The Shepherd leaves the ninety-nine sheep to find the one lost sheep; refusing to rest until he finds the sheep that is lost and in grave danger.  A true shepherd provides the same care for all of his sheep; the sheepfold is not complete without finding the one lost sheep. If one lost soul remains lost, we are incomplete.  Until time shall be no more, one more soul remains to be found and rescued from the danger of eternity without hope.  

Jesus describes the joy of a woman and the camaraderie of her neighbors when she finds a coin she's lost.  Searching high and low, lighting every possible candle to peer into the dark corners, no effort is too much to keep the family budget on track. While the flames from the candles dance upon the floors and cast their light into the farthest reaches of the room, something glitters.  Could it be?  It is.  The rent money glistens in the candle light and everyone rejoices!

No effort is ever lost or fruitless when it comes to letting our light shine.  Jesus asks us to not put our candle under a bushel basket, but to let it shine, to be ready to bear witness to God's love for all.  Somewhere in the shadows your light may be the only hope for someone finding their way out of the darkness of sin and despair.   

There is great joy, an indescribable joy in heaven and on earth whenever we can help someone find their way into Jesus' loving welcome.  Why do the angels also rejoice?  It is they who watched in reverence from above as he whom they knew as the only begotten of the Father, in his sacrificial death pour out his love for the whole world.  

'O the intensity of heaven's love for the whole world, that who ever believes in Jesus, should not perish but have everlasting life.  We are witnesses, letting our light shine, inviting the rest of the world to receive the bread of heaven.

This is the concern and calling of the Church for two thousand years.  The evangelism of our day is twofold.  It is necessary for the renewal of the Church as much as it is for others to hear of the love of God and come to know him as we have.  Many do not live up to their baptism, while many are yet to be baptized into Christ and his Church.  How long has it been since you have examined your conscience and made a good confession or, when is the last time you've rubbed shoulders with sinners and eaten with them?  On the first point, Jesus invites us to his mercy in the confessional.  On the second point, we are to be the face of Calvary to those who have yet to see it.   

The heart of evangelism is caring for and loving those who are lost, praying fervently for their salvation.  Sometimes these prayers continue for years.  Like Monica agonizing for the salvation of her wayward son Augustine.  She lived in the fourth century and was given in marriage to Patricius.  Violent in temper, Patricius converted to the faith of his wife a year before his death.  Augustine, their wayward and promiscuous son also fell under Monica's gentle spirit and prayers.  Praying, fasting, and weeping for Augustine's salvation, she spoke to the local bishop of her heavy burden for her son.  His counsel of patience and of God's time only intensified her requests for the bishop's counsel. Responding, the good bishop said, "Go now, I beg you; it is not possible that the son of so many tears should perish."  Augustine was received into the Church in 386 at the age of 32, remaining a faithful Christian and Bishop until his death.  

The prodigal son wandered far, far, away, from his father's house; but not from his father's love.  Love is stronger than sin, patient, and long suffering.  Every day this father walked down to the gate and surveying the dusty road as far as the eye could see, he prayed for his son to come home.  I know what that father felt.  I have felt it as a father myself.  The nights you can't remember if you slept or prayed all night for that son or daughter, God knows.  And they who sow in tears, shall surely rejoice in God's good time.

And why this fervency, this intense love for those who do not know our Lord and his love and his forgiveness?  It's Calvary.  My prayer is that everyone, you or that special someone, and the derelict on the street, will find the warm embrace of those arms of grace outstretched on Calvary. 

Calvary still says, "I love you, welcome home!" 

There is no greater love.

Wonderful, merciful Saviour,
Precious redeemer and friend;
Who would have thought that a Lamb
Could rescue the souls of men.
O you rescue the souls of men.


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