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September 8, 2010
Breaking Open the Word
By James Cavanagh
Sept. 12: 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Overview: This week’s readings focus on God’s unfathomable mercy. They remind us, first of all, to remember His mercy toward us and to be thankful. Echoing St. Paul’s words in the second reading, the Lord has “treated each one of us mercifully” and showed us “abundant grace, faith and love.” The first reading is from the episode at Mount Sinai when the people of God, having grown impatient waiting for Moses to come down from the mountain, invented their own form of worship by making the golden calf. It was an act of betrayal and infidelity that cried out for justice. But God in his mercy relented. Moses’ intercession for the people on the mountain foreshadowed Christ on the cross who prayed for those who crucified him: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do!” This week’s Gospel includes three parables that illustrate each in its own way the vast extent of God’s mercy: the lost sheep; the lost coin; and the prodigal son. The first two parables accentuate the divine initiative of a loving God who will stop at nothing to seek and save the lost. Read by itself, the parable of the prodigal son tends to focus on his actions and his initiative in returning home. Combined with the other two parables, however, the focus shifts to the Father who runs to meet his wayward son “while he was still a long way off.”
Key verse: “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them” (Lk 15:2).
“Catechism of the Catholic Church”: “Jesus invites sinners to the table of the kingdom: ‘I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.’ He invites them to that conversion without which one cannot enter the kingdom, but shows them in word and deed his Father’s boundless mercy for them and the vast ‘joy in heaven over one sinner who repents.’ The supreme proof of his love will be the sacrifice of his own life ‘for the forgiveness of sins’” (No. 545).
Pope Benedict XVI: “It is beautiful to think that on this day throughout the world, wherever the Christian community gathers to celebrate the Sunday Eucharist, the Good News of truth and salvation rings out: God is merciful love. In our time, humanity needs a strong proclamation and witness of God’s mercy. After the tragic events of 11 September 2001, which darkened the dawn of the third millennium, (John Paul II) invited Christians and people of good will to believe that God’s mercy is stronger than all evil, and that only in the cross of Christ is the world’s salvation found” (Angelus, Sept. 16, 2007).
Life application: The Eucharist makes present the redeeming and merciful love of God. As the priest elevates the consecrated bread and wine, let your gaze dwell upon the crucified and risen One who intercedes for us at the right hand of God: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Now more than ever the world needs to hear the message of God’s love for all people.
James Cavanagh is director of Evangelization and Catechesis for Metro-Area Parishes of the Denver Archdiocese. For information on subscribing to "Breaking Open the Word, click here. For archives click here.