MySpiritualAdvisor.com’s Mark Kurowski reflects on forgiveness and especially forgiveness of enemies that turn to the good. Who can tolerate that? What do we do with them? Listen to this podcast of his reflection on the readings for the 24th Sunday of Ordinary Time to find out. Please read Luke 15:1-32. #GreatPreaching #Forgiveness #Sermons#Homilyhelper #ProdigalSon
For MySpiritualAdvisor.com, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 9/15/2013 The 24th Sunday of Ordinary Time.
Please pause this audio and read Luke 15.1-32.
Blah, Blah, Lost Sheep
The terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentegon twelve years ago shook us to our core. They made us feel vulnerable. The generation of students who are now attending the University have never had a consciousness other than the attacks of 9/11. It was an event which reminded us that we could leave the house and never come back. It reminded us that we could wake up in the morning and kiss our spouse for the last time. It reminded us that we could see the bounce in our children or grandchildren for the last time. No matter how much we can do with science, we are still reminded by terrorist acts that we still die. It could happen today.
Twelve years ago on 9/11, after I had finished having a hastily called prayer service in my church, a member named Mabel Posz told me that after the bombing of Pearl Harbor the churches were packed like they had not been prior. A reporter for the Post Tribune of Northwest Indiana asked me why it was that people ran to the church after neglecting it for years. I said that it was simple, “We are all going to die.” At the time I hoped that people would return that Sunday and return again and again.
Those of us who have stayed here in church may be tempted to look down our noses at people who clamored to God when our mortality was exposed. But that is not the way God would have it. There is no angst from God that people return to the church. God is glad that people turn to him in times of crisis and in the face of evil.
Jesus says to the Pharisees, the emphasis is on being joyful when people return to him by coming back to the church. If we are to take the parable seriously, we ought to be out there working hard to find those people who may have lost their way to church and a relationship with Jesus Christ. We ought to be out there working hard to find those people who have been turned away from the Church by hurt or loss.
There is no angst at people who turn from evil and turn to God. There is just joy that a new life is born, the lost are found. Which would we rather have, a life remaining in evil, or a life which repents of its evil and starts to sow the good?
What if Osama Bin Laden had repented of his sin? What would we do then? What if, the master terrorist had become a Christian, or a peaceful Muslim, and denounced what he had done? What if he had then took his money and started a trust fund for the children of the victims of his suspected terrorist attacks? How would’ve we reacted to that?
If we are to take the Gospel story seriously, there would have been more rejoicing in heaven over Osama Bin Laden becoming a Christian or a peaceful Muslim than for all of us who are deemed righteous entering into heaven. Why would this be? It would be because God doesn’t desire anyone to be lost. In fact, the reason that the Son became flesh and dwelt among us through the Virgin Birth was to find us and include us in the promises made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. If there are any sheep who are more off the beaten path than people who use violence to solve their problems, be it Bin Laden or the United States Government, then I don’t know of a sheep that is off the path.
Jesus Christ does not want us to be a violent people. Jesus does not rejoice when someone does not follow his ways. As a matter of fact, he follows those who do not go to church around and eagerly and expectantly searches for them with the hopes that they would return to the Church. So, we as people who follow Jesus, we should rejoice like Jesus rejoices when people return to Church, search for God, and find the way.
Why is it so easy for Jesus to say that there is more rejoicing in heaven over one sheep that is found than in the ninety nine that are still in the fold? It is so easy because if the ninety nine are really in the fold, then they are rejoicing with the angels in heaven over the person who comes back to church or comes to know Jesus Christ for the first time.
It was a tragic thing that happened on 9/11. There have been many more tragic acts of violence: Newtown, Boston, etc. Which is more tragic, that there are people who died in these terrorist attacks, or that there are people out there who think serving God means that you perpetrate such an attack? Who is to be more pitied?
If we are Christians, which means that we follow the Risen Lord, then what we hope is for the redemption of all humanity. This means that we pray that the souls of the dead will go to heaven with the Lord. It also means that we pray that those who did such a thing would repent and turn to Christ. Our hope is that there would be one hundred in the fold, not even one missing from the fold.
Those who think that the idea of Osama Bin Laden being a Christian or a peaceful Muslim is far-fetched, then I guess the idea of Saul of Tarsus becoming a Christian is just as ridiculous. It is the grace and love of Christ acted out in love that transforms.
On a less serious, but very serious note, the idea of Dr. Seuss’ Grinch stealing all of the presents to eliminate Christmas did not squelch Christmas in Whoville, as the Grinch supposed. In fact, it just brought into sharper focus that Christmas wasn’t about giving presents, it was about celebrating Christ. Just because you fly an aircraft into the World Trade Center, shoot people in an elementary school or place a bomb filled back pack in a crowd of innocent people, those acts don’t prove that our God is weak because he didn’t stop your evil act. Your flying your planes into the World Trade Center, shooting children in an elementary school or placing a bomb filled back pack in a crowd of innocent people, just proves that you are evil. Our response to evil has and will prove what kind of people we are.
If our response to evil is to turn to God, then the lives of the people in the World Trade Center, the lives of the children in Newtown and the lives and limbs of the people in Boston, have not been lost in vain. If our response to evil is join together in loving our neighbor, then all things have worked to the good for those who love the Lord.
Do we react to this tragedy by shunning the sheep who have used evil as a desperate attempt to have their way? Do we react by killing them off? Or, do we react by searching high and low for the sheep so that we can bring them into the fold?
If there should ever be an act of humanity which would spur us on to invite others to come hear the good news that Jesus Christ saves souls, the lives lost in the World Trade Center should be it. If there should ever be an act of humanity which would spur us on to invite others to come receive the forgiveness of the Father of the Prodigal Sons, the lives lost at Newtown should be it. If there should ever be an act of humanity which would spur us on to invite others to come hear the good news that Jesus Christ has made himself available in the Bread and the Cup, the lives lost in Boston should be it. How many people in these tragedies were never offered the opportunity to fall in love with Jesus Christ because others felt embarrassed about their faith? How many never knew the forgiveness of God? How many never knew the intimacy of the Eucharist? How many people could we be celebrating their entry into heaven, but someone failed to invite them, we failed to invite them?
So what are we to make of God from all of this? We are to determine that God is now running around seeking those who feel lost so that he can rejoice over their coming to him. We are also to make of him that he is strong enough to raise the dead to life on the last day no matter how they died. For those who loved the Lord, they are now part of the community of Heaven who are rejoicing over the lost who are found. We are to make that those who are farthest away from God are those who would do such a terrible things–and God is searching for them as well.
The Gospel Lesson for the 24th Sunday of Ordinary Time teaches us that God is out looking for us to repent. Though we may have been mistaken, or missed the mark of understanding and following God, he is always willing to accept a person who has not followed Him. For those of us who take him seriously, those of us who turn and see, when we are in the midst of terrorism and death, it is God and God alone who we can trust, then there is eternal life awaiting us.
Did you hear what Jesus said in this passage? There would be rejoicing in heaven when we and the world around us turn from our own self devised ways of thinking to follow the ways of Jesus Christ. He not only loves you, he is looking for those who are missing the mark and not following him. When he finds you and anyone else who has strayed from his ways, there is rejoicing in the heavens! Praise be to God who lives and reigns forever and ever! God is not dead. God is not absent. God is the one who compels you to go to church on Sunday to give you the comfort of open arms upon your returning because he loves you. Why would we wish any less for anyone else? Who are you going to invite to Church this week? Amen? Amen.
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