Living a good life in communion with God and His church:
The gospel from this Sunday’s readings were about the lost sheep, the lost coin, the prodigal son who returned home…those who were lost and then found.. Amazing Grace is the song that comes to mind…”I was blind and now I see…” This is a primary theme and message from the scripture, BUT there is a far greater lesson to be gained.
As I reflected on the gospel about the two brothers, I was reminded of the experience of a friend of mine, who had suffered much in her life. She had endured many disappointments and pain. Just as with the good brother in the story, she too did the right things, She chose to be with God and to avoid sin as much as possible. She willfully chose to be a good girl. She didn’t lie, didn’t cheat, didn’t go out of her way to break any of the commandments. She spent hours in prayer and had a close personal relationship with Christ. She worked tirelessly to be worthy of the love of God. She remained chaste until her wedding night and married a wonderful, God-fearing Catholic man. They started a family and the two of them raised their children in a devout Catholic family with family prayer and active participation in all aspects of the local church.
Evil enters in: One evening, her oldest daughter was at a party with friends. The people hosting the party were all over 18 and were visiting from college. Later that evening, her husband and her heard a car approach and their daughter and a friend get out of the car. When they went to the porch to greet them, they noticed that the friend was helping the daughter to walk. The daughter was bruised and bloody from head to toes. She had been brutally raped by drunken boys who were also invited to the party. They had done unspeakable things to her as they forced her to engage in sexual acts against her will.
They took their beautiful daughter to the nearest emergency room and found that she had vaginal tears, bruises around her throat and damage to other parts of her body as well. The attending physician said that it was a clear case of forced rape and that the young men should be prosecuted.
Injustice and Pain:
The family had the young men arrested and the young girl, who was very active in the local church, was treated like a harlot. The rape was somehow her fault because she had gone to a party with alcohol and young men. What did she expect? She had somehow gotten them in trouble and their mothers blamed her, not their sons. Attorneys engaged and the boys were allowed out on bail. My friend and her husband were livid. How on earth could they be walking the streets after doing such a thing? Where is the justice. They then took solace in their knowledge that they would have their day in court and would see these young men pay. Needless to say, that day never came. The daughter was shadowed by the boys. She would turn around in Wal-Mart and there one of them would be standing…right behind her. They had restraining orders too. She would be driving home and see one in a car following her. She was hounded, dogged, and shamed by even her own church members. “The little slut created this problem.”
The Plea Deal and the compassion of Christ:
After several months of the boys and community freely and legally intimidating and abusing this young woman, the defense attorneys approached her and her lawyer with a plea deal. “Let them plea to a lesser charge and be spared prison time.” Being a good christian girl, she couldn’t stand the thought of their mothers having to go to prison to see their sons, so, against her parents pleas, she agreed to let them be labeled as sex offenders for the rest of their lives and spare their families, who had done nothing wrong. The boys were ordered to leave her alone or face going to jail and they had to report to their probation officers weekly AND have the sexual deviant charges go with them wherever they went. Jesus would forgive them too, wouldn’t he?
Faith Shaken – where is the reward?:
Again, just as the good brother was hurt by the father celebrating the return of the brother who had squandered his inheritance, my friend was confused and disappointed. She was devastated for her daughter, but more importantly, she found it very difficult to forgive the young men and their families, especially the church members who sided with the young men. Why had God forsaken them? They were good people. They had always done the right things…avoided temptations to sin as others proceeded to sin and then go to confession. Where was the justice in all of this? How is this justice LORD?!
To make matters worse, these young men were also Catholic; members of the church where the family had worshiped for so many years. My friend became depressed as she brooded about the fact that these “animals,” these “pigs,” would be given last rights and be forgiven for all the bad things they had done in their life. They would be treated with the same love, mercy and dignity as any other sinner, regardless of the sin. As long as they were truly sorry, truly repentant..the little bastards would be forgiven. How is this fair or just? She and her family were good people, faithful, true…and these guys would be treated the same? given the same love? Not FAIR! Not FAIR!
What my friend failed to realize is that just as the good son had been with his father always and everything his father possessed was also his and could not be taken from him, she too had spent all those years living a grace filled life in Christ and that could not be taken from her.
The TRUE REWARD:
Even though God wishes for us to all rejoice over the sinner who returns, He wants those of us who are faithful to realize that ours is the better portion. While it seems that the person who willfully breaks all the rules and is separated from God and His church through their own free will and sin has been given something they do not deserve, the one who chooses to be with Christ, of their own free will, has the greater blessing. They have been with Christ this whole time and the grace received cannot be take from them.
Just as in the Gospel of Luke (10) and the story of Mary and Martha, Martha was worried and running around being nervous and anxious about the preparation of having guests, while Mary spent her time sitting at Jesus’ feet, adoring and listening to him. Martha asks Jesus if he thinks it is ok for her sister to sit with him and leave all the work to her, and Jesus’ response was..
“Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Mary realized that spending time with her Lord was far more important than fretting about preparations for guests. She knew the work would wait, but her time with Jesus was right then. Mary had received the better portion. She chose to be with Christ, totally focused on him and his words of life. How many of us would gladly trade places with Mary? What a tremendous blessing?
What about those who sin their entire lives?:
The young men, who committed such a horrific act of violence in the above story, are also loved by God. Just as the father in the gospel loved his son who had been lost and celebrated his return, The Lord will also rejoice in the return of these young men. The worse the sin, the greater the rejoicing by all in heaven, when true repentance and conversion occurs.
This love of God is unconditional. If these young men live a life of sin and then experience a true conversion of heart and seek God before they die, God will forgive them and rejoice in their return. They spent all that time being separated from the love of God. How sad? They are to be pitied, not envied.
The faithful one has received the great gift of being in spiritual communion with God himself. The faithful one has had the joy and grace of being one with The Lord. There is no greater reward than to be one with God.
“My son, you are here with me always; everything I have is yours.”
Separation from God is the true nature of SIN. To choose emptiness and separation from the love of God is the true punishment. The final punishment is if the soul does not return and chooses eternal separation.
“The TRUE MESSAGE taken from this gospel, this word of God, is that there are no limitations set on the love and mercy of our Lord. God is truly loving and forgiving. Even though we are all sinners and subject to human weaknesses, God loves all sinners with the same love. Just as a parent loves ALL of their children and grieves the separation from a child, because of the child’s own “willful” behavior, The Lord grieves the separation of His children through their own willful desire to seek worldly treasures instead of accepting the treasures of heaven, which are freely given and stored in heaven rather than on earth. “My son, you are here with me always; everything I have is yours.” C. Dianne Phillips, September 19, 2013
Gospel according to LK 15:1-32
but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying,
“This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
So to them he addressed this parable.
“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.”Then he said,
“A man had two sons, and the younger son said to his father,
‘Father give me the share of your estate that should come to me.’
So the father divided the property between them.
After a few days, the younger son collected all his belongings
and set off to a distant country
where he squandered his inheritance on a life of dissipation.
When he had freely spent everything,
a severe famine struck that country,
and he found himself in dire need.
So he hired himself out to one of the local citizens
who sent him to his farm to tend the swine.
And he longed to eat his fill of the pods on which the swine fed,
but nobody gave him any.
Coming to his senses he thought,
‘How many of my father’s hired workers
have more than enough food to eat,
but here am I, dying from hunger.
I shall get up and go to my father and I shall say to him,
“Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.
I no longer deserve to be called your son;
treat me as you would treat one of your hired workers.”’
So he got up and went back to his father.
While he was still a long way off,
his father caught sight of him,
and was filled with compassion.
He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him.
His son said to him,
‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you;
I no longer deserve to be called your son.’
But his father ordered his servants,
‘Quickly bring the finest robe and put it on him;
put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.
Take the fattened calf and slaughter it.
Then let us celebrate with a feast,
because this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again;
he was lost, and has been found.’
Then the celebration began.
Now the older son had been out in the field
and, on his way back, as he neared the house,
he heard the sound of music and dancing.
He called one of the servants and asked what this might mean.
The servant said to him,
‘Your brother has returned
and your father has slaughtered the fattened calf
because he has him back safe and sound.’
He became angry,
and when he refused to enter the house,
his father came out and pleaded with him.
He said to his father in reply,
‘Look, all these years I served you
and not once did I disobey your orders;
yet you never gave me even a young goat to feast on with my friends. But when your son returns,
who swallowed up your property with prostitutes,
for him you slaughter the fattened calf.’
He said to him,
‘My son, you are here with me always;
everything I have is yours.
But now we must celebrate and rejoice,
because your brother was dead and has come to life again;
he was lost and has been found.’”
Luke 10; 38 -42
38. As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him.
39. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.
40. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
41“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things,