Reflections on the Readings
Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time - September 18, 2011 - Year A
By Dennis S. Hankins
The Generous Love of God!
"Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?" (Matthew 20:15)
Through the prophet Isaiah God speaks to us today. He says, "My thoughts are not your thoughts. Neither are your ways my ways." And yet God is as near to us as our next breath and we should call upon him while he is near. We should seek him while he may be found; not that he is lost, but we are without him.
And God's promise is that he is merciful and will abundantly pardon all who turn to him. That is the testimony of everyone who turns to him. It is the testimony of the penitent thief on the cross, to whom Christ promised Paradise at the last hour of this man's life. The apostle Paul describes the resurrection appearances of Jesus to more than five hundred brethren at one time. He states that he appeared to James, then to all of the apostles. But "Last of all, Paul says, as to one untimely born, he appeared to me also."
The message of the today's Gospel is a rich reminder of the generosity of God. He invites all into his friendship. To all he offers the same gift of eternal life. As we come nearer to the cross of Christ, we discover a remarkable thing. Everyone of us stand on level ground as we gaze upon God's offer of forgiveness and salvation. No one gets more love than another; no favorites are standing here. Together, whether we arrived here early in the morning or make our profession of faith at the last hour of our life, receive the same invitation to come into his embrace; to enter into his rest.
There is a woman who was caught in the act of adultery. The scribes and Pharisees escorted her to the feet of Jesus demanding that justice be done; that the law of Moses be followed. Jesus wrote something on the ground and then stood up and invited anyone without sin to hurl the first stone against the condemned woman. Again Jesus wrote something in the dust; and one one by the accusers left. Jesus looked up and said to her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" She said, "No one Lord." And Jesus said to her, "Neither do I condemn you; go, and sin no more."
What did Jesus write on the ground? Some ancient manuscripts of this passage state that Jesus listed the sins of each of the accusers. I wonder if he may have included after each sin, "Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more."
For various reasons it is sometimes hard for folks to believe how generously merciful and forgiving the Father is. Some believe that their sin is too sinful. They don't believe that God could forgive them. Others think it's just simply too late. "There is nothing left to save," they say. But God reaches out to all; the rich and poor; the down and out; the wasted and wearied. To God, who is not willing that any should perish, there is no one too lost or too old or too sinful. Neither is it ever too late.
If Jesus is saying anything to us in today's Gospel it is surely that God is generous. Whether your sins were forgiven early in your life or today your are in the sunset years of life, God's grace is amazing, it is full, and it is free. There is no friendship as real and life changing as is the friendship of Jesus. The little children ran to him and lepers cried out to him. The demon possessed were liberated by him and fisherman left their nets and followed him.
It is extremely difficult for some to think that God is so willing and able and ready to forgive. Some believe that God is too generous. Do not misunderstand. I'm not preaching that Grace is cheap. I am saying that God's grace is sufficient and what he gave to a motley crew of disciples two thousand years ago is what he will give to you and to me today. So whether we are still in the first hour of the Church or it is the eleventh hour of her witness, God's love is the same unconditional gift of eternal life.
Come, let us adore him. Here at this Altar let us bow down and cry worthy is the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world. And then with hearts overflowing with thanksgiving let us bring to our lips this life giving bread and this saving cup. And then let us return to our families and to our communities and work places to imitate the generous love we celebrate today.