Twenty-Fourth Sunday In Ordinary Time

solemn_portrait_by_claimyourself-d7ncvdhAs Catholics, we belong to a liturgical church. One aspect of this is the observation of the Church Year—a fixed, three-year (Sunday) calendar. In other words, we follow the Lectionary. We do not freely choose the readings, but rather, subject ourselves to the discipline of a Lectionary that proclaims the same message to all members. This is part of being a universal Church. That being said, on 9/11 in this Year of Mercy, today’s celebration just happens to proclaim stories of God’s mercy in each of the readings, as well as the responsorial Psalm 51. It is the great penitential psalm known as the Miserere.

This fifteenth anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy becomes even more significant in the light of subsequent terrorism in our country. Today’s second reading from Saint Paul to Timothy expresses the evangelist’s gratitude to Christ for being treated with mercy and patience. The Gospel’s parable of the prodigal son completes the mercy and forgiveness circle.

If God is so compassionate and loving with us, then as faithful followers of Jesus we must risk being so compassionate and loving with others. First of all, this means that we don’t judge whether the other is worth our mercy and love. God shows us that all are—even outcasts and sinners. Second, we ourselves don’t earn mercy and love. Since they are free gifts of God to us, they are gifts we freely give to others. We don’t wait until someone wrongs us to show mercy and love—we offer these gifts simply because the other is a beloved of God.

It’s much easier for us to be merciful and loving when the end situation is
better for us. For example, we might forgive a family member some wrongdoing because we want peace in the family. It is far more risky to be merciful when there is no immediate gain for us in sight. As those who follow Jesus, we are called to be merciful simply because this is the way Jesus was. Living the paschal mystery means that we feast well and often because we realize that God unfailingly extends mercy and love without calculating whether we deserve it or not. All we need to do is repent. All we need to do is be willing to be found.