24th Sunday in Ordinary Time:
?Book of Exodus 32:7-11.13-14
?First Letter to Timothy 1:12-17
?Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 15:1-32
On the feast of Immaculate Conception of 2015, Pope Francis declared the official opening of the Extraordinary Year of Mercy spanning from December 8, 2015 – November 20, 2016, which will be the Feast of Christ the King. This choice of the theme of the Extraordinary Jubilee year of Mercy coupled with his Papal Bull of Indiction of the Jubilee year titled Misericordiae Vultus (The Face of Mercy) only but shows the compassionate heart of the Pope towards sinners. When the World expected the New Pope to clamp down on homosexuals and already in Nigeria, a 14 yr jail term had been stipulated for them, he rather chose to be non-judgmental by declaring “who am I to judge?”, while at the same time calling for their conversion through love and compassion, a lot of Christians misunderstood him. That is the exact kind of situation experienced by Jesus in the gospel of today. The Legal system of the Jews had no room for mercy. It was ‘tooth for tat’ If anyone removes ur right eye, you have to remove his right eye equally. However, this legal system does not represent God who is Compassion and Love. Ps. 103:8 says: The LORD is compassionate and merciful, slow to anger and filled with unfailing love.
In the readings of today we see that compassionate nature of our God. In the first reading from Exod. 32, after Moses had gone up to Mount Sinai, the people of Israel became impatient and made a molten calf which they worshipped. God in his anger decided to destroy them and a few gracious words from Moses, God decided to show them mercy. In the Second reading from first Timothy, Paul was full of appreciation to God who put behind his old ways to make him a personal instrument. The Gospel taken from Luke shows the reaction of Jesus to the Pharisees who were disappointed that he ate with sinners. He first showed how important everyone is to God in the parable of the Lost Sheep, then he told the great parable of the Prodigal Son to show the unfathomable compassion of God. The parable narrated the ordeals of a strayed son and the Jubilation that followed his return. The essence of the parable is the Compassion of the Father and not the sin of the sinner. The unfortunate scenario that played out when the 1st son came back shows the stance of the Pharisees. The first son did not feel compassion for his brother. He did not feel he had the need for mercy because he felt self righteous and he did not accept that his brother should have it. A lot of us are like this son or the Pharisees. We feel self righteous and we condemn all others. If you are like that, then you do not possess the forgiving heart of the Father. As Christians we are called to show compassion to the weak. Misericordiae Vultus, no.1 says:
Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy. These words might well sum up the mystery of the Christian faith. Mercy has become living and visible in Jesus of Nazareth, reaching its culmination in him.
Hence, a true Christian must reflect this face of God. That is the true mark of Christian faith. To reject mercy is to reject God. Don’t go about casting stones for no one is worthy. The scenario in the gospel presented the tax collectors as public sinners but the Pharisees, were they all saints? No! They were also unworthy. They were like the first son who didn’t know his father even while with him. Quit judging others and show mercy because if God should mark our guilt, no one will survive. While in Seat of Wisdom seminary, we had a street light that made everyone under it have a ghpst-like appearance. Most times, seeing people under it one is tempted to mock them for their appearance while forgetting he bears the same appearance. May this jubilee year of mercy make our world a place where we all lovingly help one another to witness to God’s compassion and to reflect his face of mercy. Happy Sunday and God bless you.
– Fr. Precious Ezeh