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Homilies :: Latin Rite
Twenty Fourth Sunday of the Ordinary Time Download This Homily

September 15, 2019

Twenty Fourth Sunday of the Ordinary Time

 

Exodus 32:11, 13-14

Psalm 51:3-4, 12-13, 17 and 19

1Timothy 1:12-17

Luke 15:1-32 (Shorter form Luke 15:1-10)

 

Gospel Reading

 

The 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 Jesus addressed this parable to them. "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."

 

Reflection


Evolving images of God

 

 

Being endowed with five sense organs and a remarkable rationality it is quite natural and normal for human beings to attempt to “locate and comprehend God”. Localizing God and making him tangible are essential steps to facilitate communication and to develop relationship. Human beings wanted a God whom they can see, hear, touch, smell, taste and relate. Religions are the results of such attempts. Yahweh who revealed himself to Moses as a nameless, formless, timeless God was incomprehensible to the people of Israel. Though by means of miracles and through the mediation of Moses Yahweh tried to make his presence felt, the people of Israel demanded more visibility. Yielding to their constant demand Yahweh pitched his tent among his people and came down in the form of a dark cloud. But that too was too amorphous for his people to grasp. They wanted a more concrete image for God, something they can see, touch and talk to, someone they can carry around on their shoulders and sing and dance around, someone who can take lead and go in front of their army. The people of Israel were ready to sacrifice even their precious stones and valuable gold jewelries to create such a tangible image of God. In the absence of Moses they pestered Aaron and he succumbed to their pressure and made a tangible symbol of Yahweh - a mighty golden bull!

 

For human beings relationships are impossible without signs and symbols. All communications happen through the medium of signs and symbols. The entire language system, so unique to human beings, is nothing other than a collection of signs and symbols. There are some religions and sects who claim that they have eschewed idols and believe that they are superior to other idolatrous religions. However, any intelligent person can see that they too have their idols which are a bit more subtle and therefore more treacherous as well. Picture worshiping and scripture worshiping are essentially the same as statue worshiping!

 

Then what might be the reason behind God’s staunch resistance towards being idolized? The reason is simple. People often fail to make a distinction between symbols and the reality they represent. Unfortunately, at times people give more importance to signs and symbols than the reality they stand for. Cultural practices, customs, etiquettes, national flags, anthems, liturgy, scriptures, ceremonies, monuments, etc are all various kinds of signs and symbols. But, sorry to say that there are people who die for and also commit murder to protect these cultural, national and religious symbols. A flag or a photo represents a nation or a person; however a flag or a photo is still a piece of cloth or paper on which some colours are applied. Unfortunately there are a lot of people who fail to distinguish between symbols and the reality they represent. Ignorant people first get attracted and then get attached and finally get blinded by those symbols to which they give too much importance and value.

 

In today’s Gospel we see Jesus holding three stunning images of God in front of the Jews, which they have never seen before - the picture of shepherd who goes after the lost sheep, the picture of a woman who sweeps the entire house to find her lost coin and the picture of a father who refuses to punish his reckless son and forgives him and restores him unconditionally. None of these images of God were familiar or acceptable to the Jews. They knew only a warrior God, who punishes the wicked and rewards the righteous.

 

Often human beings are like those five blind men who went to “see” the elephant. They all certainly and seriously explored the elephant according to their capability. The one who came in contact with the tail thought that elephant is like a broom, the one who got in touch with the legs compared the elephant to pillars; ears gave one the idea of a fan, so on and so forth. None of them were totally wrong and none of them were fully accurate either. That is the reason why our ancient Maharshis instructed us, ekam sat, vipra bahuda vadanthi – reality is one, the learned speak of it differently.

 

Every generation has its favorite images, signs and symbols. We are surrounded by golden bulls of every sort. The devotees and priests of each of those golden bulls invite and force people to submit and surrender to the symbols they promote. Therefore, every generation needs a Moses who encountered God in the dark cloud, to come down from the mountain, crush the man-made golden bull, and make them drink it. Every generation needs prophets like Elijah who will pull down the idols, destroy the altar and kill the priests of idols. There is an interesting story about St Augustine who encountered a boy who was diligently trying to drain the ocean into a small pit he made using an empty shell. Augustine tried to convince the child of its futility. Then the child responded, “You try to drain the mystery of God using your small brain, I try to drain the waters of ocean using a small shell, what’s the difference?”

 

Unfortunately, even after twenty centuries, humanity refuses to understand and accept the limits and limitations of their images of God. People get stuck with their ancient symbols. Jesus portrayed a God who forgives his children unconditionally. Jesus envisaged a divine kingdom that is not governed by greed and fear but forgiveness and love. However, even now some of his followers believe fear and greed are better means to control people than preaching love and forgiveness. The great Italian political philosopher Machiavelli, instructed his emperor to generate fear in his people if he wants keep them under control. Even to this day, fear rules and love is considered a weakness. It seems that it may take another millennium or so for the world to evolve to a position that it may accept the improved image of a loving, forgiving God that Jesus presented to us.

 

Dr Kurian Perumpallikunnel CMI


Homilies Navchetana Apps, the first of its kind is produced and published by Navchetana Communications, Bhopal, India to assist the clergy to preach the World of God and also as a handy spiritual resource for the people of God to reflect on the daily spiritual passages at their convenience. You can download this on your Android phone from Google play and you can see the Gospel reflections of the whole year. The size of this app is just 2.5 MB. We welcome your suggestions and contributions to server you better.

May God Bless you

Fr. James M L CMI

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Homilies Navchetana is an initiative of Navchetana Communications, Bhopal, India. We have been sending the Sunday and daily homilies last four years. We are grateful to you for your cooperation and encouraging comments. Navchetana is committed to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ through modern media and performing arts. Through our Web TV, audio and video productions and stage programmes we take the Gospel message to the ends of the earth. Make a donation and be a part of this noble mission.


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