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Ordinary Time 24 (C)
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Readings for the Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C

 1. Exodus 32, 7-11 and 13-14
  • Most of this passage puts bitter and threatening words in God’s mouth.  But then God will relent at the end.  So how do I want to say them?  Let me listen.
  • Go down at once to your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt.  It sounds to me like “Go back” as well as “Go down.”  So now they are Moses’ people?  Was Moses the one who led them out?  Perhaps that is what the people thought, making themselves a molten calf.  Or is God mocking Moses?  Is God involved in handwashing, too?  I want to get across a sense of great betrayal.
  • They have become depraved.  They have soon turned aside from the way I pointed out to them.  They acted suddenly and decisively.  I hear finality in the words, because this behavior is seen as unforgivable.  God speaks not in exasperation but in disappointment and resignation.  At least I think so; how many potential revelations were aborted in history?  The Bible itself mentions a few.
  • Making for themselves a molten calf and crying out, This is your God, o Israel!  They violated the second of the commandments, that forbade making images of God.  They are guilty as charged, since earlier in the chapter we witnessed their actions.  And the punishment?
  • Let me alone that my wrath may blaze up against them to consume them.  Then I will make of you a great nation.  I will sound the sentence against Israel with full throat, and offer the invitation to Moses with the same firmness. 
  • But Moses implored the Lord, his God.  Listen to Moses and how he turns the argument on its head.  Israel is now your own people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt.  Notice that even though they violated the covenant, they remain God’s people.  The prophets, and through them all the descendants of Israel, affirm God’s faithfulness.  This is our faith.
  • Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, and how you swore to them.  Moses knows his place among the people, and knows something about irrevocable promises.  How irrevocable can I make my declaration today and every day? 
  • So the Lord relented in the punishment he had threatened.  God does not need reminding, but we certainly do.  Look ahead to today’s Gospel, where God looks for our repentance and runs to meet us on the way home. 
  • Climax: Remember.   
  • Message for our assembly: A single just man saved the people then.  Can we fill Moses’ shoes today, with all these golden calves that surround us?
  • I will challenge myself: To find the dramatic tone that can convey in our assembly the crisis of breaking faith with God, and how our forebears survived it.

2. I Timothy 1, 12-17

  • I am grateful to him who has strengthened me, Christ Jesus our Lord.  The apostle’s letters are full of personal testimonies.  Here is one of his last, written like Augustine’s Confessions as praise for the work of God in him.
  • He considered me trustworthy in appointing me to the ministry.  Again, Christ took the first step.  On his own, the apostle was no more than a blasphemer and a persecutor and an arrogant man. 
  • The grace of our Lord has been abundant.  We are to remember that any good in us results from God’s favor.  The apostle cannot stop giving God the credit.
  • Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.  Again and again the Gospels make exactly the same point, and it doesn’t hurt to repeat it now.  We say something like it in the Creed – “for us and for our salvation he came” – and I should say it now as if this was the only reason for him to come as he did.
  • In me Christ Jesus might display all his patience.  I will take my time with the inverted word order because this is leading up to all of us, those who would come to believe in him for everlasting life.  A lot is depending on the apostle’s conversion and witness, and he cannot fail his own time or ours.
  • Central point: Christ works in us, appointing, treating mercifully, saving, displaying patience. 
  • The message for our assembly: Do we give the credit for our faith to Christ?  Or are we still blind to his work in us?
  • I will challenge myself: To speak the words out of my own testimony to the work of Christ with my reading skill.

Gospel. Luke 15, 1-32

  • On his own journey to Jerusalem, Jesus leaves us the greatest of all his stories.  He also leaves the most treasured image of himself bearing the lost sheep on his shoulders. 
  • All three stories are filled with the careful searching of a shepherd, a housewife and a wealthy landowner.  Let me rehearse the words that describe that searching: go after the lost sheep, light a lamp and sweep the house, and most of all the father who caught sight of him a long way off and ran to him. 
  • There are these two groups of people in the long passage: a sinner who repents and the righteous people who have no need of repentance.  We know that Jesus preached repentance, so we know on which side we will find him.  Part of my ministry will be to encourage the assembly to line up on the side of the repentant sinners.  Maybe I can give an example, as the apostle did, because I have often stood among the righteous and prayed very proudly like they.
  • The story ends with an invitation for the elder son to join in the celebrating.  The Gospel passage leaves it open-ended, because we have yet to make our choice.  I liked Fr. Bill Burke’s imaginative ending in his Evangelists video, in which the two sons make up to each other and enter the festivities arm in arm.
  • Climax: This son of mine was dead and has come to life again.  When this phrase appears the second time, I notice the change to your brother.
  • Message for our assembly: Has this story become our story?  Do we use it to describe our own journey to grace?  With which brother do we identify?
  • I will challenge myself: To read clearly and deliberately, letting everyone identify themselves with the characters and feel fully forgiven.

From Word to Eucharist: At Communion time the Byzantine rite reminds us that Jesus “came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the greatest.”  As we approach the table, let us all feel the need to be saved, and be glad that God saves us in him.

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