Homily: 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time
In a family of five, seven or nine children, they say that there is always a black sheep, one who consistently gives headache to the parents; one who always causes troubles among the siblings. When parents talk about achievements in the family among their children, the mention of the black sheep would hardly cause a smile in their faces. Frown is easier to evoke. But today, Jesus presents to us a Father who does not frown on the black sheep of the family. On the contrary, “there is rejoicing among the angels of God over one repentant sinner”.
The parables in the Gospel picture God’s desire to find sinners and bring them back into the fold. God is willing to leave the ninety-nine just to find the lost sheep. When a sinner turns to God, heaven throws a party. Recovering a lost sinner is God’s priority. This was perhaps the reason why God gave in to Moses’ intercession for mercy, in the First Reading, and did not punish the Israelites after they offended the Lord by making a molten calf as their god. God, who never takes joy in the death of sinners but that they repent, forgave the Israelites because they repented. St. Paul, in the Second Reading, also claimed to be a recipient of God’s mercy and forgiveness. He said, “Christ Jesus wanted to display his utmost patience in me so that I might be an example for all who are to believe and obtain eternal life”.
That God is constantly on a search and rescue operations for sinners should be a source of great hope for all of us, sinners. In one way or another, we too can identify ourselves with the lost sheep or the lost coin. Oftentimes, when we are lost, we get the feeling or the sensation that nobody cares to find us. Today, we are assured that we are loved. And that despite our being lost – I would say, precisely because we are lost – God searches for us and assures us that when He finds us, there’s a party. But what is more tragic is when some sheep refuse to be found. They know the shepherd is searching for them. Yet, they prefer to be lost and would hide from the shepherd. They think there’s more fun in being lost than being in the fold.
Why would God pursue sinners? Why would God pursue me, a sinner? First reason we can give perhaps is that because we are sinners. Sinners need God even though many times we don’t admit it or aware of it. When you ask a mother why she would still pursue her son despite the son’s rejection of her help or of her presence in many occasions, I’m sure the mother would say, “He is my son and he needs me”. God, who is also a mother to us, would surely think the same way when He pursues sinners.
The second reason, perhaps, why God pursues sinners is that because He is God and God is Infinite Goodness. St. Thomas Aquinas said that it is proper to God to forgive sins. Hence, it is fitting that God pursues sinners. It fits the Infinite Goodness of God to be concerned not only with the righteous but also with the sinners. A God who’s interested only with the righteous is not really an infinitely good God. We often claim that God is good, all the time! Well, here is the reason why God is good all the time: He pursues sinners as well!
However, the fact that God pursues sinners does not give us permission to commit sins so that God may search for us. No! But, yes, it gives us great hope that despite the many sins we may have committed, God is still interested in us. Isn’t that reason enough to go to the Sacrament of Confession more often?
God’s attitude to search for the lost sinners should give us also a lesson. Disciples like us, Christians, Catholics, should also diligently engage in the search and rescue operations for sinners on behalf of the Master. Jesus provides a clear example for us to follow. Finding lost “sheep” and missing “coins” must also be a disciple’s priority. Jesus involved himself with sinners; so should we.
But how do we react when we find the lost sheep? Nowadays, we are confronted with a nationwide search for big public sinners related to the pork barrel scam. How should we react in a Christian way upon finding out the names and faces of the lost sheep and the missing coins in our society? Will there be more rejoicing in the Senate or Congress? Will the government throw a party?
St. Josemaria Escriva said: “Consider what depths of mercy lie in the justice of God! For, according to human justice, he who pleads guilty is punished, but in the divine court, he is pardoned”. If “there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one repentant sinner than over ninety-nine upright who do not need to repent”, then, we’d better repent every time we commit sins. And we should rather choose to plead guilty before the divine court, the Confessional.
May our Blessed Mother, the Refuge of sinners, intercede for us!