Tag Archives: 24 Sunday in Ordinary time

11 September 2016: Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary time

Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
Ex 32:7-11, 13-14 Ps 51:3-4, 12-13, 17, 19 1 Tm 1:12-17 Lk 15:1-32


The God who actively searches for the lost

Green_banner_smDuring Ordinary time the Lectionary invites RCIA participants and the believing community to hear and to reflect on Jesus’ stories and teachings from his everyday ministry. This week’s readings confront us with God’s active mercy and its effect.

In the first reading, the Exodus writers show that God’s mercy is always present to the Israelites, no matter what they do. God sought out Abraham and made a covenant with him long before God delivered the Israelites from Egypt. Moses reminds God to remain faithful to the covenant and to show mercy to the people have broken it. The Lectionary editors chose this reading to compliment Jesus’ three parables of loss-and-finding.

The second reading is from the first letter to Timothy, which we will hear for the next several weeks. The section immediately before today’s reading instructs Timothy on his duty to restrain false and useless teaching. In the section we hear today, the author (speaking as Paul) gives his own experience as a “blasphemer and persecutor” to show that even those opposed to sound doctrine can be converted through the “abundant grace of the Lord.” God’s abundant grace exists for us even before we know we need it.

The gospel presents three parables about people who experience loss: the shepherd who lost a sheep, a woman who lost a coin, and a father who lost a son.

  • What is a parable? The Greek word παραβολή (pah-rah-boh-LAY) means “to throw one thing next to another thing” to create a comparison. Parables are not allegories; they do not have only one interpretation. Parables are ambiguous–they ask more questions than they answer. When Jesus tells a parable, he challenges his hearers to compare their actions or attitudes with those in the story.
  • The audience and context. Jesus addresses today’s parables to the Pharisees and scribes–good Jews who kept the covenant laws. Jesus tells these parables after the Pharisees and scribes criticize Jesus for “welcoming sinners and eating with them.”
  • An interpretation. The three parables focus on the actions of a person who has lost something or someone–how the shepherd, the woman, and the father react to the loss. The person who loses the sheep, coin, or son first searches. Only after finding the sheep, coin, and son, does the person rejoice, gather friends, neighbors, and family, and celebrate the finding. Jesus seems to be asking the Pharisees and scribes why, as recognized religious people, they don’t act: search out the lost and restore the “sinners” to God and the community. These religious leaders instead criticize Jesus, who searches out the lost, and, on finding them (“welcomes them”), rejoices and celebrates (“eats with them”)–offering mercy, discipleship, and a place at the table in the God’s kingdom.

Today’s readings remind RCIA participants and the believing community that we are in a relationship with a God-who-searches. After humans initially broke this relationship, God searched and found others (Abraham and his descendants) to continue the relationship. The Timothy author describes God’s overflowing abundance of grace, from God who sought out Paul. Through parables and actions Jesus tells the Pharisees and scribes (and us) that God’s mercy is active, not passive. God doesn’t say, “You know where to find me,” or “Call me when you’re ready to talk.” God actively searches for the lost. As disciples of the God-who-actively-seeks-the-lost, we also must practice active mercy and active searching. Do we search out the ones whom we know are lost, or do we wait for the lost to find us? If we don’t search and find, how can we rejoice and celebrate?

—Terence Sherlock


Author’s note
To read more about the parable of the father who lost a son, see the reflection for the Fourth Sunday of Lent, Year C.


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13 September 2015: Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary time

Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
Is 50:5-9a Ps 116:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9 Jas 2:14-18 Mk 8:27-35

Discipleship: a way of seeing

In Ordinary time, the Lectionary presents RCIA participants and all the believing community with stories and teachings from Jesus’ everyday ministry. This week we continue reading about discipleship.

The first reading is from Isaiah. Scripture scholars identify the author as an anonymous poet (called “Second Isaiah” or “Deutero-Isaiah”) who prophesied toward the end of the Babylonian exile (about 550-539 BC). Second Isaiah wrote four “Servant Songs” about Israel’s suffering servant, a man called to lead the nations but who was abused and condemned; in the end he is rewarded for his sufferings. Early Christians saw the suffering servant in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. In today’s third servant song the suffering servant “gives his back to those who beat me” and his face “to buffets and spitting”–we see the messiah’s passion foreshadowed.

The second reading continues the letter of James. In today’s reading, the author criticizes believing community members who distinguish between faith and works. Some in the ekklasia (possibly Gnostics) see belief in Jesus as sufficient for salvation. The author asks: What good is faith without the works that make faith real? Without works, faith is a dead thing. Others in the ekklasia see faith and works as two different gifts (“you have faith and I have works”). The author corrects them: faith and works are two sides of the same coin. He says, “you can’t show me your faith alone, but I can show you works that come from my faith.”

In Mark’s gospel we hear Jesus’ teaching about discipleship. Last week Jesus healed the deaf-mute, but his disciples still can’t see who Jesus is. This week, Jesus asks his disciples, “who do people say I am?” The disciples give positive, but non-committal,answers. Jesus asks them directly: “Who do you say I am?” Peter, the spokesman, responds: “You are the anointed one, the messiah.” Jesus then teaches the disciples about the messiah’s mission: rejection, suffering, death, resurrection. (See the first reading’s “suffering servant.”) Peter rebukes (literally “censures”) Jesus for Jesus’ description of messiahship. Jesus rebukes Peter right back: “Go away, Satan. You’re seeing things like a human, not the way God sees!” Jesus addresses the disciples and the crowds on discipleship: you must leave your family and friends (“deny oneself”) and walk with Jesus and his followers. Everyone has a choice: follow the world’s path to have a worldly life–and lose your life in the end; or give away your life in service to Jesus’ message–and save your life.

As the RCIA process resumes its weekly sessions this week, the readings provide catechumens and candidates–and all believing community members–with stark words about what Jesus expects of his disciples: See things from God’s point of view. Give up your comfortable, clannish ways. Walk with me on my path. Our baptismal profession of faith puts us on the disciples’ path. Our Baptism and Confirmation anointings make us other Christs and other messiahs. Whom do we say Jesus is? How do we see ourselves as disciples? Have we learned to see with God’s eyes? Can others see our faith and discipleship in our works?

—Terence Sherlock

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