HOMILY FOR THE 24TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR C
THEME: UNLIMITED LOVE AND MERCY OF GOD
BY: Rev Fr Stephen ‘Dayo Osinkoya
HOMILY FOR SUNDAY SEPTEMBER 11 2022
Exodus 32:7-11, 13-14
Psalm 51:3-4, 12-13, 17, 19
In the Timber Mountains of the Northwest of USA a five-year-old boy was lost. Night came. The citizens and rangers searched frantically every cave and mountainside. Snow began to fall. Blanket upon blanket covered the forest floor, but no Bobby could be found. The next morning the father, fatigued from an all-night search, kicked against what seemed to be a log in the path but when the snow fell loose, a small boy sat up, stretched, yawned, and exclaimed: “Oh, Daddy! I’ve found you at last!”
When we commit sin, we also wander away from God and are lost to Him. But God out of His abounding love and bountiful mercy goes out in search of us until He finds us. Unlimited love and mercy of God for the repentant sinner characterises today’s liturgy. The parables contained in the gospel passage of today are different though, they all point toward the willingness of God to do anything to bring back one who is lost.
In the First Reading of today from the Book of Exodus we are presented with the hardness of heart of the people of Israel, whom God has freed from the slavery in Egypt under the leadership of Moses. When Moses led them to Mount Sinai, he explained that God wanted to sign a Covenant with them. He then climbed the mountain to receive the terms of the covenant. A month passed with no word from the prophet. The Israelite people grew restless and eventually abandoned their God. They demanded that Moses’ brother Aaron create a statue of Hathor, the Egyptian goddess of fertility. She was often pictured as a calf. So, while the Covenant is being given to Moses on the mountain, the people make for themselves a golden calf, a false god to worship. This makes God very angry and He is bent on taking vengeance on His idolatrous, treacherous and stiff-necked people. Yet God relents in His anger and forgives the people when Moses intercedes on their behalf and pleads for His mercy.
The key scene in this story is that of Moses pleading to God for the forgiveness of the people. We may wonder how it was possible for the Israelite people to be so blatant in their rejection of God and their forgetfulness of His saving power in leading them out of slavery that they could construct a false idol even as Moses was receiving the terms of the covenant. But it is really just the pattern of our own wilfulness and ignorance of God in the face of His goodness to us. We are really the same as them, having been blessed so much by Him.
In the second reading, Paul describes himself as a beneficiary of God’s mercy through Jesus Christ. Paul believed he acted in ignorance while persecuting the Church; but once he came to the knowledge of the Christ, he never turned back to former ways.
In the gospel, the Pharisees criticise Jesus for his tolerance towards tax collectors and sinners and Jesus told them the parables contained in the gospel passage of today. In the parable of the lost sheep, we learn of our own vulnerability to sin and tendency to stray from the assembly of the faithful. But God is the Good shepherd “per excellence” He would do just anything to bring us back when we stray, like a sheep. Meanwhile, the parable of the lost coin shows just how precious each one of us is to God, the creator of all there is.
These parables present to us the drama of sin. How often do we worship the golden calves of today’s society? The crave for material acquisition, our pride and ego, power and self-aggrandizement. How often do we run away from home? While like the sheep, we have the tendency to stray, unlike the sheep, we are intelligent beings, conscious of our actions and capable of exercising restraint. We are not like the sheep or the coin that can just get lost inadvertently. Like the Israelites we choose for ourselves the god we serve; hence by our own action and inaction, we stray from God’s presence. But the image of God which Jesus painted for us today is the image of God whose love reaches out to us in the field of sin, calling us to return to Him. We can only return to God through repentance.
When we go to confession, many time we do not understand that it is God’s love that has drawn us to approach the confessional. But how often do we respond to this love as to go and confess our sin to the priest and receive absolution for our confessed sin? God does not rejoice in the loss of anyone, but desires that we be saved and restored to friendship with Him. He seeks us out and like the father in the parable He runs to meet us. Let us humbly repent of our sins and hastily run to meet him.
*Rev Fr Stephen ‘Dayo Osinkoya*