The readings for the 24th Sunday of Ordinary Time depict a God who will never give up on sinners, because He has far more mercy than sinners have sins.
The first reading tells us much about the Church today. God had listened to the cry of the poor Hebrew slaves in Egypt for 470 years. He then raised up Moses to lead them out of Egypt, through the Red Sea, and into the desert where He began to form their hearts.
As soon as Moses ascends the mountain to receive the Decalogue, the Israelite people fall into idolatry, worshiping a golden calf.
This certainly parallels faith today, not only in the Catholic Church but throughout our culture. It almost seems that as prosperity increased, the need for God decreased.
In the 1940s, there was a lot of poverty just coming out of the Depression, and a war going on in Europe and the South Pacific.
Churches were filled with parishioners attending weekly Lenten devotions, including the Stations of the Cross. Parents were praying for the safety of their sons in battle. After Lenten devotions, parents would share with other parents the letters they received from their sons in service.
Special prayers were said for good weather for the crops and for employment opportunities. Prayer was their link to God for help.
I remember my mother grocery shopping with my older sister and when she came to the checkout counter, she was aghast that she was missing a $20 bill. By today’s standards that was worth at least $200. She could never tell my father that she lost that money.
The lady at the checkout counter graciously offered to lay the things aside as she retraced her steps to find the lost money. (Recall the story Jesus tells us in the Gospel about the lady losing a coin.) My mother quickly told my sister, “Let us quickly pray and look for this money.” As they retraced their steps up the sidewalk toward the car on this rainy morning, my mother spotted a $20 bill floating down the gutter in the street. Elated, she thanked God and went in and bought the groceries!
Prayer was our lifeline with God. We prayed for everything.
However, it seems with the coming of prosperity in the ’60s and ’70s, there was not the same need for God. Instead of turning to prayer to help heal marriage relationships, spouses gave up on the faith and turned to the divorce courts.
Today, it’s not uncommon for young children to tell us that their families no longer have time to go to church on Sunday. They need to spend that time in sports so as to win a prestigious college scholarship.
There seems to be a lack of hope. The layers of sin and guilt that have piled up seem to have dimmed the hope of so many.
The good news is that God has not given up on them. The story of the Prodigal Son isn’t just a nice story Jesus created. It’s a shout out to all the seemingly hopeless and despondent Christians that God is alive and is seeking them out.
This is where you and I, who are still going to church on Sunday, come in. As we allow the mercy of God to come freshly alive in our lives, we need to share our joy with those who may have given up hope. We need to go out of our way to reopen friendships with Catholics who have drifted away. Befriend them. Offer to pray for some of their needs. Share with them how faith has made such a difference in your life. Invite them to a renewal service.
Perhaps some of the teachings they have received led them to believe that there is no hope. Don’t only tell them differently, but show them as well.
Today I am edified again and again by people who come to me and share with me their joy of leading someone to an ACTS weekend, a Life Teen Program, a Focus Group, a Cursillo, or a Life in the Spirit Seminar.
Look especially for the person or the family who really seems to be broken and crushed. God is the only one who can change their life around. If life has crushed them, and they have become very bitter, they may be a “Prodigal Son” candidate. God will derive immense joy in flooding them with His mercy and His love.
If they are broken, bring them to the Catholic Renewal Center for prayers for healing. Pray with them yourself because God is with you, using you to bring them back to Him. God will gladly do His part, but He asks you to bring them to Him.
The more you develop a personal relationship with Jesus, the more He will use you to bring them to Him.
You and I are the broken and healed healers. We know from experience what a friend we have in Jesus, and we want to share His friendship and His healing with others.
In the Gospel we see often that the people who experienced Jesus healing them now bring others to Jesus. Seeing their faith, He healed all who were brought to Him.
When you bring just one person back to Jesus, you will have a special glory to share for all eternity.