Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 15, 2019 Cycle C
by Rev. Jose Maria Cortes, F.S.C.E., Chaplain,
Saint John Paul II National Shrine,
Sunday Reading Meditations
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
“He got up and went back to his father” (Lk 15:20). This verse describes life, that is to say, our returning to the Father’s house. Although far from God, we are on our way back to him. God is not only our origin but also our destiny. Time is given to us for the journey back to the Father’s house.
How can we return to the Father’s house? The first step is to acknowledge that we are sinners. In the second reading, Saint Paul says: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Of these I am the foremost” (1 Tm 1:15). In a different passage, Paul also says: “I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and an arrogant man, but I have been mercifully treated because I acted out of ignorance in my unbelief” (1 Tm 1:13).
At each Mass, the Mother Church invites us to acknowledge our sinful condition when we recite the Confiteor. We humble ourselves before God and pray for his mercy.
Today’s first reading speaks about idolatry. The Lord said to Moses: “Go down at once to your people […] for they have become depraved. They have soon turned aside from the way I pointed out to them, making for themselves a molten calf and worshiping it” (Ex 32:7–8). If we truly know ourselves, we shall acknowledge idolatry in the secret of our hearts. There are certain areas of our being where God is still not the Lord. There are some stains on our spirit that God’s bleach has not cleansed yet. We need to pray the words of Psalm 51: “A clean heart create for me, O God, and a steadfast spirit renew within me” (Ps 51:10).
In the parable of the Prodigal Son, the younger brother acknowledges his sins but the older one does not. The younger one says: “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I no longer deserve to be called your son” (Lk 15:21). By contrast, the older one, seeing the father celebrating the return of his brother, says: “Look, all these years I served you and not once did I disobey your orders” (Lk 15:29). The younger son committed many sins that the older one apparently did not. However, the older son was prideful, the deadly sin that is the root of all sins. He thought he was a good person, while, in fact, he was centered upon himself and not his relationship with the Father.
As today’s responsorial psalm says, we need a “contrite spirit.” We need God’s grace in order to be able to acknowledge our sins. The experience of being known and loved by God opens our hearts to contrition.
Contrition is not the same as feeling ashamed of our sins. Behind shame lurks hidden pride. We fell and blame ourselves. We feel sorry for ourselves instead of feeling sorry for offending God. We need to purify ourselves from false contrition.
True contrition is a gift of the Holy Spirit. Like the Prodigal Son, we are surprised by an unexpected embrace: “He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him” (Lk 15:20). True contrition is to hear God’s music: “He heard the sound of music and dancing” (Lk 15:25).
“He got up and went back to his father.” May our daily experience of God’s mercy help us get up and journey back to the place where we belong. Amen.
Sunday Reading Meditations