15 September 2013 – Shared Homily Starter
First Reading: Exodus 32.7-11, 13-14
Second Reading: 1 Timothy 1.12-17
Gospel: Luke 15.1-32
When I pondered this week’s readings, a theme began to emerge. Before I delve into the theme, I’d like you to consider a quote from Thomas Berry. He said, “[O]ne of the basic difficulties of the modern West is its division into a secular scientific community, which is concerned with creative energies, and a religious community, which is concerned with redemptive energies. So concerned are we with redemptive healing that once healed, we look only to be more healed. We seldom get to our functional role within the creative intentions of the universe” (Berry 1988:25).
When I considered this and looked at the readings again, I saw that what we need to be is not only co-creators but co-redemptors. For example, in our first reading, have God’s promises to Noah and to Abraham been committed to forgetfulness or is there something else at work in the mind of God? What if God was testing Moses to see if he had the compassion necessary to be God’s emissary? But Moses is equal to the task and gathers all his courage and his faith and asks God, “why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with power and with a mighty hand?” And in the verse that’s omitted from the reading, Moses says, “Turn from your fierce wrath, change your mind and do not bring disaster on your people.”
Now, Moses has seen God’s power and yet had compassion enough for the people that he was willing to argue with God. I think God was proud of Moses, who through his compassion saved/redeemed the people.
The second reading tells us that neither our past good or bad actions nor any our own efforts can exclude of from the call to be co-creators and co-redemptors. Worthiness and unworthiness are meaningless concepts when it comes to God. What matters is that we, like Paul say, “yes” to what calls us to do. Further, that when we lapse or screw up, to get up dust ourselves off and re-affirm our “yes” each time, as many times as it takes. The form and substance of our call is different for everyone but everyone is called.
The Gospel tells us that heaven rejoices over the sinner who repents. The Hebrew word for sin, "Het" literally means something that goes astray. It is a term used in archery to indicate that the arrow has missed its target. We all need to know, however, that there is hope that someday, we will be able to reach the target. For example, take the case of people with addictions to drugs or alcohol. Now some get clean and sober and some don’t. One of the things researchers have found that contributes to the difference is “the possibility of a better future.” Research has also found that the tendency to relapse into criminal behaviour among people released from in prison is also reduced by the same factor, “the possibility of a better future.”
Okay, you may be thinking what has that to do with me? Well, to repent means to return to our true self. The core of every person is good and it is only a superficial reflection of the self when a person behaves badly. The solution to any lapse is to revert back to our original state of goodness. This is where we come in, each time we let another person know we can see the goodness within them and each time we help another person see the goodness within themselves, we contribute to their seeing the possibility of a better future.
Most of us when we hear the parable of the prodigal son identify with the wayward son. But let’s look at the older son who complains to his father saying, “Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes; you killed the fatted calf for him!”
Now, Luke, like the other Gospel writers, was addressing his community. I imagine there were those in the community saying, “look at so and so, why is everybody making such a fuss about her or him. Don’t they know what she or he is like? Don’t they know what she or he has done?” This kind of thinking brings us back to the worthiness/unworthiness dichotomy, which is, in fact, a paradox when it comes to our relationship with God. By this I mean that in and of ourselves, we are all unworthy. But paradoxically God’s love for each and every one of us makes us worthy, so that we are all worthy. God says to each one of us, “you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.”
I haven’t said, of course, all that can be said. What are your thoughts?